Dont Tell Annika She Cant - She Knows She Can


It all began with a win at, of all places, the U.S. Womens Open. It was 1995, and a rather nervous Annika Sorenstam made a prophetic confession.
I really dont know what Ive gotten myself into, the shy Swede said.
How could she know that, just seven years later, she would have turned that one win into 40 wins? She won again last week at the Samsung World Championship, and it was the ninth ' yes, ninth ' time she has won this year. Its been difficult because she has had to learn to overcome a basically reserved personality. But she did, and actually her remark could be turned around to include the entire LPGA ' the women didnt really know what THEY had gotten into.
She says she will play in all five of the events remaining on the schedule, if she has a chance to break Mickey Wrights record. That record, incidentally, is 13 wins in one season.
It was set almost 40 years ago, in 1963. Womens golf wasnt nearly as universal then. Representation is so much more global now with tough competition coming not just from the Americans and the Swedes, but also from the Koreans and the Britons. Sorenstam doesnt say it, but winning is much more difficult that it was in 1963, the excellence of Wright notwithstanding. But Annika doesnt want any records standing in her way.
The record first crossed her mind when it became believable, when she first dared dream that she might do it. A lot of people shy away when the numbers begin to loom larger and larger. Annika didnt, and even though she probably wont get there this season, that figure still is squarely in her eyes. She now knows that Wrights 13 is possible.
I didn't think about the records until last year when I won eight times, and I looked in the books and saw what have the other ladies done, she said. Then this year, I wanted to beat last year. So now that I'm here, I know what the great players have done before.
She credits hubby David Esch with opening her eyes to the stark reality that she might be the one. It IS doable, she now knows. Why give up when there still is that small chance that you can at least tie, or maybe break, the record?
My husband said, You can break this record, what are you waiting for? she said. He was right. I knew I'd better add one (tournament) and that would give me another chance to do it. I'm going to go full force these last few events. And the way the schedule is next year, we're not starting until March, so that gives me a break. Why would I want to be home resting?
Well, why indeed? Hey, people are out there in front of her. Theres Wrights record of 13. Theres Kathy Whitworth and a record of 88 wins in a career. She still has plenty to play for. And she hasnt forgotten it.
I can improve in every area, I believe, she said, in the utmost simplicity. There are 18 holes out there. And I've said before that a 54 is possible, and that means you birdie every hole. Why should you limit yourself? I haven't shot 54, but I've shot 59, and you've got to break some barriers. The sky is the limit, that's what my caddie always tells me.
Once you get it in your head that it's okay, then you can perform. When you say, 'It may never be broken,' then you might start to believe it. I don't believe in those things. It's possible, and that is what keeps me going forward.
Shhhh ' dont tell her that she wont win 13 in a season. Dont mention that 88 in a lifetime is impossible. She thinks she can win 15 in a season and 90 in a lifetime. If you must maintain your grip on reality, then keep in to yourself. Sorenstam is not into bragging ' not at all. But these are the records, someday they are bound to be broken, and it might as well her.
And yes, Tiger has been an inspiration to keep digging. He won for the first time in 96 and has 34. Annika won for the first time in 95 and has 40. They are just about even
I've always had this attitude, but it's fun to see someone else doing great things. I have a lot of respect for Tiger, and he does inspire me. When he does some of the things that he's done, I want to go practice. I want to try, she said. And by now, it must be mentioned that Woods will have to hurry to keep up.
Along the way to 40, Sorenstam has changed a little personally, as well as a whole lot professionally. She isnt as shy. She isnt as reserved. Her exterior has gotten harder. She knows she is good, even though she still wont come out and say it. But she likes the player that she has become.
I trust my ability, she said quietly. I know that it's not a fluke that I won two Opens in a row. It's more than that. I'm comfortable with that stuff now. I feel good about my game. I know I can't win every tournament on the planet, but I know I have the game I want. I can still improve and that's fine with me.
She can improve, just as Jordan could still improve with a basketball. As great as he was, he still missed more than 40 percent of his shots. Sorenstam still wins less than half the time she tees it up. And until she wins 100 percent of the time, she will keep plugging. Yes, she still has more goals.