Never has six wins on the LPGA Tour seemed so insignificant. But in a year in which Annika Sorenstam did so much, six wins dont nearly tell the story.
What did she accomplish? Well, one of the most important things was that those six wins included the McDonalds LPGA Championship and the Weetabix Womens British Open ' the two victories which completed the career Grand Slam. Now she has won all of the current womens majors at least once.
Another accomplishment was her appearance at the PGA Tours Bank of America Colonial ' the first time a woman had participated in a mens event since Babe Didricksen Zaharias did it 58 years ago.
Finally, she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Acceptance into the Hall of Fame means I've gained approval from those I deeply respect, Sorenstam said simply. It was the culmination of 10 years of work in the profession, 10 years of victories, but also 10 years of giving back to the game.
It was a remarkable year across the entire breadth of her achievements. She actually collected more wins in 2001 and 2002 ' she had eights wins in 2001 and a remarkable 11 last year, 13 worldwide. This year, however, was non-paralleled in the extent of her many achievements.
It's been an incredible year in so many ways, said Sorenstam. If you measure a year in the amount of victories, yeah, last year was more - you could say I won more tournaments. but that's not the only thing that counts.
The experiences I had this year, and obviously Colonial, that is the greatest thing that will ever happen to me golf-wise. Winning two majors that I had not won before, giving me the career Grand Slam, Solheim Cup in my home country, in Europe, to win - and then here (at the Hall of Fame ceremony).
I don't know why all of the pieces are falling together; maybe I shouldn't ask why. I just want to enjoy it and be thankful because I really am. But it's definitely the most memorable year that I've had.
Sorenstam played in just 17 LPGA events in a year in which the womens tour decreased its schedule by five events. She previously had averaged 20-23 events a year. But in decreasing her schedule, she dipped below the 70 rounds needed to win the Vare Trophy, though she had a stroke average of nearly a stroke better than the winner, Se Ri Pak.
Yeah, I mean, to be honest, I am very disappointed that I won't win the Vare Trophy, she said. I always considered that one of the highest awards to win throughout the year. I think it shows a lot of consistency and you know, I am over it now.
(But) I am excited about Player-of-the-Year and the money title.
Those two awards somehat make up for the Vare Trophy slap. They help make the omission more palatable and are fitting honors to cap a fantastic year.
I was a little worried earlier in the year figuring how do I top 2002, she confessed. I knew it was going to be tough to win more tournaments. But with the experience at Colonial, winning two majors, Solheim Cup, Skins game ' (at the) end of this year I felt like I have done everything and I am excited to have had the opportunity, so I do think that this year is more memorable than 2002.
Nothing was more memorable than her week at the Colonial in May. She shot 71 the first day and 74 the next, and though she did miss the cut by four shots, she shot lower than 11 men. She faced a veritable sea of media every day she was in Fort Worth ' approximately 700.
It's got to be the Colonial, for sure, she said in discussing her greatest thrill of 2003. I mean, it was just such an incredible week leading up to it then afterwards, I still think about it. I am out there today and people talk about the Colonial. It was such a wonderful week, I will always remember that one
The pressure at Colonial, wooh, doesn't get any more than that. To be able to handle myself in these tough situations, it really helped me.
As much as anything, Sorenstam allowed her guard to slip a little and showed she is anything but an emotionless Swede.
It was a special moment, she said. I think people saw me as being human, that I have feelings. I think a lot of times they don't think I do because I wear sunglasses, you can't see my eyes and I am - people think that I am acting very cool on this tour, even though I have emotions inside. At the Colonial it was just so much, that's just the way I reacted then. I think people saw that.
Sorenstam played in two Skins games against the men, including the one at the end of the year against Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Mark OMeara. She finished runner-up to Couples in that one, holing a 40-yard bunker shot for eagle in what was one of the most dramatic shots in this 21-year-old series.
Sorenstam, at the age of 33, isnt too sure how much longer this life will appeal to her. She would like to start a family and she only has a certain time to think about having children. She seems to have achieved all her goals, and there is some speculation she is nearing the end of an abbreviated ' but very successful - career. She hasnt quashed such speculation, but she hasnt set a date for it to end, either.
I'm going to play as long as I enjoy it, she said, as long as I'm motivated to practice and the adrenaline is pumping and I'm excited to go out there. I will do it if there are more goals I have to achieve.
But I have also said that I have other interests, and golf is not the only thing that I enjoy. But it doesn't mean that I'm going to walk away from golf totally. This is just the highlight of my career and next year - I hope to always top it every year. This year I felt, Do I have to win 14 tournaments this year to make it a better year (than her 13 in 2002)? And in the end, you run out of tournaments. That pressure, I feel it's very tough. A lot of that comes from myself. I'm very hard on myself.
So what is there left to accomplish?
You know, I do like to win more majors, she said after a moments reflection. I do believe it's possible to win four in a row, same year, that's what I am going to try to do next year. I am going to go out full force and see what happens.
After that I am going to see how I feel, you know, to be on top and to continue to play well. Youve got to practice a lot. There's a lot of sacrifice and the question is how much more do I want to do that? I think it's coming to a point where I have achieved what I really want. There are other things in life that I haven't achieved that I want to give the time to do it.
So I have not set a deadline or a time or a date - as long as I enjoy it I want to continue. But it's tough to motivate myself every year and every day because that's what it takes to be on top and to continue to stay there.