Here are the facts: Annika has played in five tournaments this year. She has won once, a month ago at the Office Depot. She has a couple of runners-up and a third. And last week she finished sixth ' not bad, certainly, but her lowest finish of the year.
Normally, there is nothing wrong with sixth. In fact, there is nothing wrong with a win, two seconds and a third in your first five tournaments. But the boys are around the corner, and you had best have your A game ready to go. A lot of people are waiting
Last year after five tournaments, Sorenstam had won twice and lost a playoff for a third. In fact, she had won six times by the time she had played 12 times. Talk about bursting out of the gates like a white tornado!
This year, though, she hasnt been quite so dominating. Maybe its because of the male tour thing and all the work she has put into her preparation. Maybe she isnt concentrating on what she is doing each time she puts a peg in the ground. Maybe ' well, there's no plausible excuse, really. But shes got to do better in order to make a mark on the PGA Tour.
Mark it all down to one glaring statistic ' 29.89 putts per round.
Everything else is right where it is supposed to be. She was averaging better than 280 yards per drive until last week, which was the best in the LPGA. A poor week left he at 275.4, but that still ranks her a little less than average on the PGA Tour last year, about even with Scott Hoch, Len Mattiace, Scott Verplank, Brad Faxon she definitely can launch it out there.
She leads the LPGA in greens in regulation, hitting almost 80 percent of them. Furyk leads the men at 74 percent. Now, hitting an LPGA green is not the same as hitting a PGA Tour green. The men are hitting from a greater distance and generally have to contend with more rough. But hitting greens isnt going to be Annikas problem, either. Say she would be hitting 70 percent of the greens on the mens tour as opposed to 80 percent on the LPGA , and she would still be in the top 20 among the lads.
But 29.89 putts per round? Not good enough. She can bulk up all she wants. She can be as accurate with her irons and bomb the living daylights out of her driver ' but as long as she is not better than 29.89, she cant make the cut at Colonial. Twenty-nine-point-eighty-nine would leave her 177th amongst the men, and putting is one place you can really compare the two tours.
Its a little surprising because putting is where the women should have it all over the men ' especially someone who practices like Sorenstam does. Last year she was still not good, but she did average 29.66, a shot better per tournament than this year. But putting is where ' up to now ' the breakdown has occurred.
That is only going to be exacerbated by the huge throngs on hand at Colonial.
Sorenstam is unsure what to expect at Fort Worth, but heres a hint ' it will be overwhelming. She is a strong lady and she wont be easily intimidated. But such microscopic scrutiny would get anyone down after a couple of days. Tiger Woods himself wont see such a convention as Annika will at Colonial.
I dont know how much (publicity) will be coming my way, she said. Ive had a lot the last two months. You know, obviously I know something big is going to happen at Colonial and I look forward to it. I would never do it if I didnt expect all this hoopla around it.
Were it just an event, were Annika not a woman, were it not a 10-ring circus atmosphere, the odds against Sorenstam succeeding would not be nearly as great. But if she falls, the putter will undoubtedly be her trapdoor.
She hits it far enough and she hits it straight enough. Her mind is her inner strength, making her as apt to do well as any other golfer. The exception is the smallest club in the bag. She hasnt done well enough this year with it to play on Saturday and Sunday.
If she is going to have to scramble - as every other golfer does at Colonial - she will have to rely on her putter. Obviously, twenty-nine-point-eighty-nine wont get the job done.