However, this week she is doing more than competing. Expect Kim to be a little more giddy than usual, because when she tees it up in the $1 million Longs Drugs Challenge, she won't just be one of the 144 women trying to win the last full-field event of the season, she will be the defending champion.
Kim, who grew up in nearby San Jose, Calif., became a Rolex First-Time Winner a year ago competing in her 53rd event as an LPGA member. Since then, she has become one of the most charming, colorful and accommodating members of the Association. With bright clothes, a Crest-worthy smile and a quick wit, she is an instant fan favorite and a reporter's dream interview.
Turns out, she is also is quite a cheerleader. As a member of this year's winning U.S. Solheim Cup Team, Kim posted a 2-1-1 record to help secure the victory, but the lasting image from this year's competition will be of her encouraging her teammates to victory. With red, white and blue streamers in her pigtails, which flowed from a backward blue beret emblazoned with a U.S. flag, the gregarious Kim was a visible and vocal force for her team. She led fans in chants and cheers until she was hoarse, and by that time, the U.S. had won back The Solheim Cup.
This week, the LPGA's Ironwoman is back to competing as an individual in her 26th tournament this year and 85th of her career. Nobody plays more events then Kim, and you would be hard pressed to find someone that has more fun.
Just how often does Kim play? Well, consider the fact that Annika Sorenstam is playing in the Longs Drugs Challenge this year for the first time since 2001, when she finished tied for 43rd. In the time span between her last visit and this week, which is more than four years, Sorenstam has competed in 92 LPGA events. That is only eight more than Kim, who in 2001 was still competing in the U.S. Girls Junior Championship.
Sorenstam has seven wins on Tour this year and 63 for her career, but the last time fans at the Longs Drugs Challenge saw her was 36 wins and $10 million ago. It was before she became a one-name superstar, teed it up with the men at Colonial and became a member of the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. Now, every tournament Sorenstam enters, she is the favorite to win.
No sport has seen an athlete who has been able to maintain dominance as long as Sorenstam. She has earned more than $18 million in career earnings and is the only player to earn more than $2 million in a season, something she has done the previous four years and is on the verge of doing again this year. No other player in LPGA history has earned more than $2 million in a season. Sorenstam has finished atop the ADT Official Money List seven times in her career, is a seven-time Rolex Player of the Year and a five-time Vare Trophy winner for lowest scoring average. Not surprisingly, she leads all three categories again this year.
Last year, Kim carded four rounds in the 60s to finish the tournament at 18-under-par 266 to hold off a pair of LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members in Karrie Webb by one stroke and Juli Inkster by two.