Annika One for All Time


It's about 3:00 p.m. on the eastern coast. The ladies are playing a major out west. It's only Saturday, and there is still a round and a half to play. Annika Sorenstam has a four-shot lead.

Take all of this information and factor it into an equation; the output equals: get started writing.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam rules the LPGA Tour winner's circle with an iron fist.
Why waste time waiting until it's over? A column has to fill this space come Sunday evening. And with a whole bunch of nothing happening over in Ponte Vedra Beach; theres only one thing ' one person ' to talk about: Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam really hasnt been talked about that much this season. For one reason, much of the media and public attention has focused on the great happenings (weather malfunctions not withstanding) transpiring on the PGA Tour.
And for another, the LPGA season didnt begin until nearly March.
But now its time to shine a serious spotlight on a lady who shined blindingly since the calendar turned 2000.
About five hours after initially looking at the Kraft Nabisco Championship leaderboard and seeing that Sorenstam had distanced herself rather comfortably from 36-hole co-leader Rosie Jones, I took another peek to see that the advantage was finalized at five.
And so Saturday night I began to pick up at home where my writings had left off at work ' until NCAA basketball and procrastination consumed me.
And so Sunday afternoon I began to pick up at work where my writings had left off at home.
Ive gambled enough in my life to know that Ill never win as much as I'll lose. But I was willing to wager said house on a Sorenstam victory.
Sometimes she makes it interesting. Shes like Muhammad Ali when he fought Ernie Terrell and Floyd Patterson. She almost carries her opponents along until she wants to knock them out at her own leisure.
But she always ' almost always ' seems to win. And this time she won by eight, birdying three of her first five holes at Mission Hills Country Club to make it an early TKO.
It really didn't matter who her closest opposition was. Not Rosie Jones, nor Cristie Kerr, nor Michelle Wie, nor Grace Park was going to make up that many shots on Sorenstam.
Sure she blew a three-stroke lead to Wendy Doolan at last years Evian Masters. But this lead was five. And this was a major. And this might be the best that Annikas ever played.
And the best that Annikas ever played might be the best that anyone has ever played on the LPGA Tour ' ever.
It might not have mattered if Nancy Lopez or Kathy Whitworth or Mickey Wright or any other legend in her prime was playing in the final threesome with Annika this Sunday.
Her nickname should be All Time ' Annika All Time Sorenstam. Because everything she does is either the best or comparable to the best of all time.
When it all comes clear at the end of her career, Sorenstam may not own all of the tours prominent records. She may not eclipse Whitworths mark of 88 victories. But whatever she ultimately accomplishes will have come during the most competitive time ' from top to bottom ' in tour history.
'We may be witnessing the best player in the history of women's golf,' said fellow Hall of Fame member Judy Rankin, who has just about seen 'em all, at the end of Sunday's telecast.
Annika has 59 tour wins in her career ' 36 in a shade over four seasons ' for fourth on the all-time list. Shes been named player of the year seven times, tying Whitworth for the all-time mark. Shes topped the money list seven times, one shy of Whitworths all-time record. She has won the Vare Trophy for lowest seasonal scoring average five times ' and would have tied Whitworths all-time record of seven had she competed in the requisite 70 rounds each of the last two seasons.
Her scoring averages over the last four years are the four lowest in tour history. She holds outright the all-time records for score in relation to par over 18, 36, 54 and 72 holes.
She now has eight major titles to her credit, tying her for fifth all-time. And ' most importantly to her at the moment, she still has a shot at becoming the first female to complete the seasonal Grand Slam.
Now, eventually she has to lose.
Joseph Stalin said (Stalin and Sorenstam?): History shows that there are no invincible armies. Annika is unquestionably the best of her era, and arguably the best of any era.
But eventually she has to lose. Or quit.
Right now her winning streak has reached five consecutive tournaments, tying the all-time record set by Nancy Lopez. Lopez accomplished this feat in her rookie season of 1978. Sorenstam won her final two starts in 2004 and her first three in '05. That makes it all-the-more impressive in favor of Annika. There was a three-and-a-half month gap between her final start last year and her first this season.
Annika's not riding a hot streak. She's a human flame who can't be extinguished.
'I think she's awesome,' Lopez said. 'I don't think anybody in the sports world gives her enough credit for what she has done and what she's accomplished and I think really, and truly she's better than Tiger Woods.
'We have a lot of great players out here and nobody is even coming close to her.'
Forget about a Big 3 or a Big 4 or a Big 5 in the women's world; No. 1's so considerable, there just isn't enough room for anyone else. In fact, she's so big, so much better at the moment than every other female golfer, that there's not even a clear-cut No. 2.
Who's the second best player right now on the LPGA? There's no overwhelming answer. Theres Annika and then theres everyone else.
Karrie Webb? Se Ri Pak? Where'd you go? Where's the challenge? Sorenstam has been so dominating over the last four or five years that she has gradually buried Webb and Pak ' her Hall-of-Fame peers! ' deep in the dark of her shadow.
Lorena Ochoa? Michelle Wie? Paula Creamer? Park? Kerr? Each of them has a chance to reach the top of the women's game. But if and when they do, it will likely be because there is no more Annika.
Eventually Annika has to lose. And eventually she has to retire.
She's been hinting at such a thing for the past few years. But one of the major reasons the talk of retirement was so persistent was because she wanted to start a family. Now there is no husband, which means there won't likely be any little Annikas running around in the very near future. Which means Sorenstam won't be stepping aside in the very near future.
There's a debate as to whether or not this is a good thing.
On one side, there is the group thought that Annika's absence would again lead to parity on the LPGA. This would be good for the whole of the tour. On the other side, there is the group thought that as soon as Annika moves on, so will public interest. Annika isn't just the face of the LPGA; she is the LPGA ' so they believe.
As Carl Spackler once said: Id keep playing.
Until family becomes her primary focus, the extent of her competing will likely be based on her level of concern. Its hard to imagine that anyone could actually get tired of winning. But when youre at the level of an Annika Sorenstam, enthusiasm is directly related to challenges.
And if no one else is going to offer up that challenge, then its up to Annika to find ways to test herself ' whether it be competing against men, winning all four majors in the same season, or completely re-writing the history books in her own ink.
We, as fans, will just have to enjoy things in the present time. Annika certainly is.
'I've always said that if I enjoy playing this game, I'm going to continue to play it,' she said. 'Obviously right now I'm very much enjoying it.'
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