Dont Worry About Annika

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The first tendency is to be a little concerned over the play of Miss Annika, the icon of womens golf. The same player who once won 18 of 38 events in 2004-05 has won only once in five starts this year.
 
Thats the first tendency. The reality is ' settle down. Settle down. The season is still very young. She says she is hitting the ball well. Her putting has had a tendency to be up and down. But putting has a perplexing habit of coming and going with every player. In all the important facets of the game, she is right on target, she says.
 
Sorenstam herself is not terribly concerned. But after seeing the results of the latest tournament ' the Ginn Open where she finished seven shots behind winner Mi Hyun Kim ' you might tend to get a mite fidgety.
 
Since sailing to victory in her first tournament this year on the LPGA, Sorenstams results have been a bit puzzling. She let victory slip through her fingers at the event prior to the Ginn when she had the lead going into the final day, but uncharacteristically suffered an out-of-bounds tee shot on the 17th hole and finished tied for second. In the other three tournaments, including the one last week, she never was really a factor.
 
Holy Toledo, boss, whats going on? Well, the best guess is that this is just one of those quirky things that every athlete goes through. Last year you may recall that she went from mid-June to mid-September without a victory, a period of three months that encompassed five LPGA tournaments. She did win in her home country of Sweden at the Scandinavian TPC Hosted by Annika in August on the Ladies European Tour.
 
Whats the problem now? The knee-jerk reaction is to point at the large number of Koreans who have won here ' four victories in eight tournaments this year. But the more likely truth is that Sorenstam is just going through another momentary period where her putter is simply not getting the job done.
 
Results-wise, I'm not so pleased, she said after the Ginn. But I'm happy with the way I'm playing. I'm going to keep on grinding and hopefully it will turn around.
 
Of course, the results are the most important part of the game. A beautiful swing, a gorgeous 4-iron, is greatly appreciated. But at this stage of Annikas career, the only thing that really matters is victories. And at this stage of the season, both Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb have had more impressive years, as well as Seon-Hwa Lee and maybe Juli Inkster.
 
Last year was perhaps Sorenstams greatest year, at least in her own opinion. The 35-year-old set extremely high marks in her performance, and its been difficult at this juncture repeating them.
 
She tied for first in putting last year; this year, shes tied for fourth. She led the LPGA in greens in regulation last year; this year, shes tied for 13th. Last year she led the LPGA in scoring; this year shes fourth. Last year she was 12th in driving accuracy; this year shes tied for 94th. And, proof that everyone on the circuit has gotten better this year, Annika is driving the ball 268.5 yards compared to 263 last year. But she is only tied for 14th this season, while that shorter figure was T4 last year.
 
Of course, five tournaments is way too early to gauge a season. And Annika is readily aware of that.
 
I'm hoping it's turning around, I really am, she said. I have a lot of chances, I'm just not converting anything. And when you don't, then you make bogey and it's frustrating. That's how I feel it's been the last month or so.
 
Still, she professes to be very satisfied with the season thus far. My game, it's just up and down, a lot of birdies, a lot of bogeys. The good stuff is good, so hopefully I can eliminate the bad.

But Sorenstam is a notoriously hard worker, and the long hours she has spent on the range is paying off in at least one facet: I'm very happy the way I'm hitting my irons, probably as good as I have in a really long time, she said. So luckily that part is working great. But I think I have to fine tune it and clean it up a little bit.
 
She suspects that maybe her putter is causing her the most problems at this early stage of the season. But then, she says shes rolling the ball well and not just seeing it hit the cup. And she says there is no doubt that winning on the LPGA has gotten much tougher the last couple of years with the vast influx of outstanding Korean players, as well as the good young Americans.
 
But she, more than anyone, realizes how difficult it will be to keep turning in seasons of seven wins, nine wins, 10 wins. That may be the perception of Annika Sorenstam ' another 10-win season. But, unfortunately, that probably will not be the reality.
 
I've gotten a little spoiled, I must say, she said. Every year I set some goals and it's about the majors and about a few other tournaments.
 
But I must say that I think I've done a lot better than I expected. I have to put things in perspective. It's not necessarily all about the amount of wins I measure in the season, but the consistency is very important to me.
 
This year, just come out in the first event and you think, How am I going to improve from last year? That's putting a lot of pressure on myself, so I try to change the goals a little bit. I looked a lot at my stats and try to improve in different areas. If I improve there and win some majors, then it might be a better year.
 
And, its far too early to write off this year. The breaks, and the victories, tend to even out. And Sorenstam has been around plenty long enough to know that.
 
You know, when I look back on my career, I've been very fortunate, she said. A lot of times, I've been on the good side. I think, you know, this just gives me a little bit more fire, and maybe that's what I need for the rest of the season.
 
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