Last week she was in Japan, and, of course, she won. Incidentally, it was the fifth straight year she has won the Mizuno Classic. No other golfer - man or woman - has ever won the same event five consecutive times. Her buddy Tiger Woods won the same event (Bay Hill) four straight times, as well as Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen. One other woman, Laura Davis, has done it. But five times in succession? That list begins ' and ends ' with Annika.
She has now won 65 times on the LPGA tour, just 23 short of Kathy Whitworths record of 88. Remember, though, that it took Whitworth 22 years. Sorenstam is only in her 12th season at age 34.
What is all the more impressive is that she has won 13 times around the world in addition to the LPGA victories, from Australia to England to France to her native Sweden to Japan. And, at only 5 feet 6, she is far from a large woman. Most of the good players now are 5-9, 5-10. Annika is relatively short. But, her tempo is so perfect and her strength such that she is third in driving distance.
Meg Mallon has long been a confirmed believer in Annika. The longevity of this incredible streak that she's had - I don't think any golfer has ever done this in the history to the level that she's played at, said Mallon.
You've seen Tiger go through it, even Karrie (Webb) a three year stretch - it was amazing. But this has been six years or something. That in itself, I can't think of another. Even in the Jack Nicklaus era, he finished out of the top 20 quite a bit. And this is incredible what she's doing.
I think because it's looking too easy to everyone, they are not appreciating how great it is, and that's what's so amazing is that she makes it look so easy. It's a thing that we all know how hard it is.
To get an idea of just how difficult it is, just look at the next highest number of tournaments won on the LPGA this year. That figure is - two. Are you beginning to get a picture of how dominating this woman is? And, its just a continuation of whats been happening the past five years.
Annika isnt playing this week. But if she wins the LPGAs final event next week ' and she won it last year ' she will have won exactly half the LPGA events she entered this year. She has played 19 times this season, and she has won nine ' plus one in Sweden.
Perhaps nothing says it about Annika like the subdued reaction she displayed last Saturday in the media conference following her 67. She was a shot behind leader Young Kim, and Kim had said earlier that she felt a 6-under 66 would win her the title on Sunday.
Someone asked Annika about the statement, and Annika quickly arched an eyebrow without saying a word. She must have thought ' A 66? I myself shot a 64 in the first round, and surely she knows that Im capable of doing it again.
Annika, though, recovered from the shock very quickly. She gave the standard answer - she didnt want to predict what the final score would be, blah blah blah. But, all you need to know is Sunday she shot that score ' a 64, including a 31 on the back nine. And, she won by three shots.
I love the challenge, she said, and I love coming down the stretch and taking the shots that you need to. It is just the extra excitement, knowing there are only a few more holes until the tournament is over. I know I have to hit the perfect shot. That is when all of my adrenaline starts kicking in, from the back nine, because that is when it matters.
To say that she is mentally tough is really an understatement. She is 15-5 in playoffs, losing only twice since 2000. And she last missed a cut in August of 2002. In fact, she has missed only four cuts since her rookie year of 1994, when she missed four cuts in her first nine events. All four since, incidentally, happened in majors. Annika doesnt miss cuts unless the competition is top grade ' and then only rarely.
Sorenstam is anything BUT a cocky winner. But she is quietly, resolutely determined. Such determination, coupled with such talent, leads to a very successful golfer.
I love to challenge myself, she said, and see if I can do things that nobody else has done. That is what motivates me. That is why I play this game.
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