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Annika Finds Ways to Motivate

04 McDonaldWILMINGTON, Del. -- Goals are still hard to find for Annika Sorenstam.
Challengers are not.
The LPGA Championship was supposed to be the second stop on her way to the Grand Slam. Having accomplished just about everything else in women's golf, Sorenstam went searching for motivation and settled on a goal of winning all four majors in the same year. No professional, male or female, had ever done that.
Instead, Sorenstam had her worst tournament of the year in the first major. She tied for 13th in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which only raised more questions about how soon the 33-year-old Swede would call it a career.
But since that crushing loss, a familiar motivation has returned. With so many young faces starting to emerge on the LPGA Tour, Sorenstam still wants to show everyone who's the boss.
'Yes. You got it,' she agreed Tuesday before a practice round at DuPont Country Club.
It appears - for now, anyway - that she has some serious competition.
The winner at the Kraft Nabisco was Grace Park, a 25-year-old who has threatened to become a star the last five years and is just now starting to play to her potential.
Park closed with a 67 in the final round last year at the McDonald's LPGA Championship and lost in a playoff to Sorenstam. Along with winning her first major, Park has three other runner-up finishes and a third this year.
Se Ri Pak, who has been trying to keep up with Sorenstam the last three years, won the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill and earned enough points for the Hall of Fame, despite being only 26.
Lorena Ochoa, the 22-year-old from Mexico, won her first LPGA event this year and has finished out of the top 10 only twice in nine tournaments. And a victory last week by Karrie Webb, the 30th of her career, might be a sign that she is ready to renew her rivalry with Sorenstam.
That's something Sorenstam has been lacking - a rival.
As the LPGA Tour heads into the heart of its schedule - three majors in the next eight weeks, along with the $2.1 million Evian Masters in France - Sorenstam no longer has such a firm grip on the top.
She has a $135,000 lead over Park on the money list, a slim margin considering Sorenstam won't play nearly as many tournaments this year. She leads Park by a mere 2.58 points in the Player of the Year race.
'When you get close on the money list, player of the year, I want to be the best,' Sorenstam said.
She is still driven by the majors.
Despite 51 career victories, Sorenstam has won only six majors - as many as Webb, one fewer than Juli Inkster. She would like to finish with 10 majors, although that would be five short of the record held by Patty Berg.
'If I'm still playing and I continue to feel good, maybe I'll try that,' she said. 'But those records to me, I just find it very hard to compare golf 20, 30, 40 years ago to what it is today because the competition is so different. These are my personal goals. If I turn out to be in one of the record books, I'll be happy.
'But it's not something that keeps me going.'
The LPGA Tour will have its own world ranking at the start of next season, and Sorenstam will almost certainly be No. 1. As Tiger Woods has shown on the PGA Tour, players don't give that up without a fight.
Even though her focus is more squarely on the majors than ever before, Sorenstam was asked if she would settle for two majors but not winning the money title or player of the year.
'Well,' she said with a smile, 'I am very competitive. I do want to win the money list, too. I'm greedy.'
The next two months will determine if Sorenstam remains the most dominant player in golf, or whether Pak, Park, or anyone else can start closing the gap.
Sorenstam has won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average the last three years. The last two seasons, she finished a full stroke better than Pak.
The Swede has surpassed $2 million in earnings the last three years - no one else has broken that benchmark - and finished more than $1 million higher than Pak two years ago.
The question now is how long she can keep it up?
'I always felt I had a challenge to find new goals and keep me motivated and keep me practicing, because I'm getting to the point in my career where I feel very, very satisfied with what I've achieved,' she said. 'Therefore, the majors are what I want.'
The majors are what everyone remembers, so that's an appropriate goal. After failing to win the Nabisco, Sorenstam set her sights on winning three majors this year. She has never won more than two in a single season.
Still, there is nothing that motivates an athlete more than hearing footsteps.
Park not only is neck-and-neck with Sorenstam for player of the year, she is the only woman capable of achieving Sorenstam's goal - winning the Grand Slam.
'I love to see if I can win when I want to win, especially this week,' Sorenstam said. 'That's what keeps me motivated nowadays is a challenge.'
She might finally have one.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship

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