Is it Finally Immortality Time for Annika


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Shes still got her mind set on that one overriding goal. And when Annika Sorenstam sets her mind on anything, it almost always gets done.
It, of course, is the Grand Slam ' winning all four majors in one year. The first one of 2006 begins Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Shes won this portion of the Slam three of the last five years, including last year. And last year she also roped in the second major, the McDonalds LPGA Championship. But each year ' and shes now in her 12th year as a professional ' somewhere en route to immortality she has slipped up.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam prepares to win her fourth career Kraft Nabisco title.
Annika has won 67 times on the LPGA, 80 times worldwide. Included in that number is nine major championships. But - four in succession, all in the same year? That has been impossible ' as it has been for every person who ever played the tour. For the 12th time, though, Sorenstam begins the awesome task.
Im as ready as I can be, she said. Ive had a really good week of practice. I think Im swinging pretty well, putting pretty well. I told my caddy today, Im really looking forward to this week. Im ready. Its now or never.
Would you believe that Annika Sorenstam still feels the jitters? It doesnt matter how many times she has won, it doesnt matter how many of these majors she has played ' she feels that certain feeling in the pit of her stomach.
I know Im going to be a little nervous, she confesses. It's still the excitement of being part of something big, and the excitement of finding out how you are going to play for the week. Ive set some lofty goals. And like I said, Im ready to come here and play. It's just natural to be nervous.
But still, the anticipation of getting started and getting the tournament going, I think its just natural to be nervous. I think the key, though, is to control the nerves, to turn it around and make something great out of it instead of getting yourself in the way.
Many of her competitors on the LPGA Tour are fervently cheering her on, though they do so secretly because they will also tee it up in this one trying to stop her. Everyone wants to win for themselves, of course. But if they cant win, they hope it will be Annika.
Am I secretly cheering for her? Probably not, because I'd like to win those events, admitted Meg Mallon.
But for the tour overall, if she does win the Grand Slam, I hope it elevates us even farther than we're now. Because she certainly deserves it.
Everyone, it seems, is rooting for this woman of Sweden who has lived in the U.S. for the better part of 15 years.
Annika has done so much for the tour already, explained Mallon, and she hasn't gotten half the attention she deserves. So that's going to be the big question - if she does win the Grand Slam, are people just going to go, Well, you know, here she goes again. Or is she going to get to the level of idolatry that she basically deserves.
I don't know. I hope so. I think she deserved it after The Colonial, but then she's won so many times since then and people are blase about it - which is really sad.
Sorenstam hasnt won more majors because, she surmises, she stumbles over herself trying to get the victory. Of course, she has won nine, more than just about anyone in LPGA history. But the first eight years, she was stuck on the number 2 ' both U.S. Opens. She has a reason ' and she doesnt want to repeat that reason any longer.
I think sometimes I get in my way because I want it so badly, she says. A lot of times I come into an event and feel as ready as I can be, and then I might not find the rhythm and then I try even harder and it gets worse. It's almost like I dig a deeper hole. But the more experience I get, I think I learn how to react in those particular situations and I definitely know how to get out of it.
So now begins her quest for victory No. 68. And major No. 10. And, for Grand Slam No. 1. But despite all her athletic achievements, many people still forget one very important point ' that despite it all, she is still a human being.
She's still a person, says Rosie Jones. She's still a girl that's playing golf, and she has her good days and her bad days.
You know, you just have to have belief in yourself, just like all of us have to get where we can play and we can play against anybody. She just happens to play better than most all the time. I don't think it's beyond anybody to be able to do that, but she's got great talent, great motivation and a lot of determination to get where she wants to go.
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