The Great Debate


In a season that seems clouded when it comes to deciding who the LPGA Tours No. 1 player is, the answer seems simple to me.
Let me just throw out a few of her accomplishments. Two second-place finishes and four consecutive wins kicked off her year and in that streak she shot a 59, set a tournament scoring record, set an LPGA 72-hole scoring record and she won a major. She won five times in a six-event stretch. I think Annika Sorenstam practically wrapped up Player of the Year honors before the month of April rolled around. Granted, the years not over yet, but if it were to end right now, Annika is the clear choice by points and performance.
Its fantastic that Karrie Webb won two majors. Its impressive that Se Ri Pak has four victories, including the Womens British Open. Annikas success came early in the season and she hasnt been heard from much since. Its easy to focus on the player that has taken up the most recent limelight, but the fact remains that Sorenstam has played the most consistent golf of any player in 2001 by far, with 13 top-eights in 17 starts, and the years not over yet.
Within minutes of Annika sinking the tap-in putt that gave her a 59 in Phoenix back in March, I interviewed her Swedish golf coach, Pia Nilsson. Pia is a woman who doesnt say something if she doesnt mean it, and without flinching she said she thought Annika was on her way to notching the best season of her career. So far shes dead on the money.
I think its wonderful for the LPGA and the womens game in general to have such a dominant trio competing for top honors so tightly and so consistently. Just because Karrie and Annika have been trading money titles and Player of the Year honors for the past few seasons, that doesnt mean Se Ri hasnt been there. She has, and shes only getting stronger.
She started her career with a bang in her rookie season, winning four times including two majors. This year, were seeing a more mature and more focused Pak and as a result, the two-woman show weve been witnessing is turning into a triumvirate - Webb, Sorenstam and Pak. The only thing missing is a young American getting into the mix. As soon as she steps up, we can call it the Fantastic Four.
I think the most inspirational thing about Annikas year has been the reason why shes risen fast and furiously. When Karrie plays well, she wants to play better. Now with Pak in the ballgame, she has two reasons to try and take it to the next level for the rest of the season. Physically, shes never been fitter. Mentally, shes never been more driven. Im sure Pak and Webb are just as motivated by Sorenstams early-year success and my guess is, this will be a race to the finish.