Its Annika - Again and Again

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2005 McDonaldDont look now, but shes at it again. Annika Sorenstam, on the eve of the LPGAs second major of the year, won again last week. If Annika doesnt win, its a major news story.
 
That underscores just how incredible all this has become. If Annika is entered, Annika wins. Its happened seven times in her last nine events. Is that good? No, thats unbelievable ' unbelievably good.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has won five of the seven tour events she has entered this season.
How crazy is this? Well, consider that the average professional golfer ' male or female ' has had a pretty good season if they win ONE time. Sorenstam has done that in every year that she has been a pro save one ' in her rookie year of 1994.
 
Since 1999, Annika has won at least five events every single year. This year shes at it again, having already won five times in just seven tournaments. She, of course, won the seasons first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has said many times that her goal is to win all four in one season. The task seems impossible for anyone else. For Sorenstam, it only seems unlikely. Perhaps it can be done? Yes, perhaps.
 
People, we are living in a very special time. An Annika Sorenstam will likely never come around again in this lifetime. Someone like Annika probably wont come around in a hundred years ' maybe forever.
 
Sorenstam has not missed a cut in a non-major since her rookie season of 94 ' 11 years ago. Lets see, her last missed cut came Aug. 9, 2002, in the Weetabix Womens British Open. Prior to then, she had made 74 consecutive cuts.
 
That last missed cut came at windy, chilly Royal Birkdale. She scored 150 the first two days (73-77), missing by five shots. Prior to that, she missed the U.S. Womens Open cut in 99 by two shots. There was the Open again in 97 when she shot 77-73 (150) while trying to win her third straight U.S. Open. That broke a string of 61 consecutive cuts made, followed by a missed cut at the du Maurier that same year ' yes, she shot 150 (this time 73-77).
 
And thats it since she missed four cuts in the first nine events she played on the LPGA ' in 94. Four missed cuts in the last 11 years ' and all those in majors
 
That, though, just speaks to Sorenstams consistency. Lets talk about her excellence. The better golfers, both men and women, win about 10 percent of the time. Thats about two to three times a year. An excellent record might be five times in one year ' perhaps 20 percent.
 
A good baseball player gets three hits in every 10 times at bat ' a .300 average. How good has Annika been over her last nine tournaments? Shes won seven times ' better than a 70 percent average.
 
She has won very nearly 50 percent ' half ' of the times shes teed it up since she played against the men of the PGA Tour at Colonial in May, 2002. During that span, shes played in 37 events. And she has won 18 times. If Annika is entered, she is a very good bet to win.
 
Sorenstam has 61 wins now. Shes in her 34th year (she was born Oct. 9, 1970.) The leader in wins, Kathy Whitworth, was born Sept. 27, 1939 ' at the end of her 34th year, she had 71 wins (1973). The difference is now 10, but Sorenstam is racing up.
 
The 34th year, though ' 1973 ' was the last big year for Whitworth. She won seven times that year, but the most she would win in any one year thereafter was three. She won tournaments up through her 46th year en route to her 88.
 
Sorenstam doesnt think she will be playing at age 46, but dont all the great ones think something similar? Dont forget, Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at age 46.
 
Sorenstam, however, will break the win record long before she is 46 if she maintains only a modicum of her current skill level. If she wins just five tournaments a year ' certainly doable for her ' she would reach No. 89 by the time she is still 39.
 
Of course, its impossible to compare eras. Whitworth or Mickey Wright, Patty Berg or Babe Didrickson Zaharias ' its impossible to declare the best. But many observers say there has never been an age like the present, when an untold number of women from throughout the globe now excel at the game. No player in history has had to contend with the quality of Annikas competition.
 
But for the sake of making a comparison, wins are a visible reminder of who has been the best over a period of time. And over a long period of time, certainly Whitworth has been the best. But Sorenstam ' along with possibly Wright, Berg and Zaharias ' are included in the very small number at the top.
 
The 34th year, incidentally, was quite important in Mickey Wrights career, also. By then she had just about finished winning ' she only won once more, at age 38. Wright actually won more frequently than Sorenstam ' she had 81 victories by the end of her 34th year. But she was compelled to play almost every tournament for several years ' sponsors threatened to pull their events if she didnt appear. Annika hasnt been under that kind of pressure ' she has played in only 18-20 times nearly every year.
 
Sorenstam actually has 12 other wins from around the world ' wins from Australia and Europe included. That gives her a total of 73 wins. Do these wins equate to some of the tournaments in America of 30 years ago? Quite possibly. With 73 wins total, we would be talking about Annika seriously closing in on the all-time record. As it is, were just talking about one utterly incomprehensible athlete.
 
I want to be remembered as somebody who loved the challenge and wasn't afraid to face it, Annika says. She has a real challenge before her in doing what Wright or Whitworth did. But I believe she will do it.
 
Email your thoughts to George White
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Leaderboard - McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Photo Gallery - Annika Sorenstam