Annika came from five behind to win the State Farm Classic, her third win of the season. It sounds impressive until you remember that she once came from 10 off the pace to win. In fact, in 21 of her wins, she has come from behind. This time, she just went out and took it from Maria Hjorth and Cristie Kerr, firing a 62 to tie an LPGA record for the lowest final round by a winner.
The season has been something of a disappointment for Annika. Her lowest win total in the last six years has been five in 2000. Last year she won 10 times. The fact that she also won last month in Sweden at the tournament which bears her name wont help her much ' it wasnt an official LPGA event. It was a Ladies European Tour event.
If youre keeping score, it was Sorenstams 14th non-LPGA win. If those were added to her LPGA total, she would now be on 83 instead of 69, and Kathy Whitworths record would be much more manageable. As it is, Annika has only thought of Whitworths record 88 in fleeting terms. That mark remains a very daunting 19 wins away to tie, 20 to get to 89.
Obviously, I know some of the history, says Annika. 'But to be honest, I've never really thought that, you know - I didn't come out here on tour and say I'm going to beat Kathy Whitworth's 88 wins. I mean, that just sounds a little crazy.
Right now, I'm in a position where I never thought I can get to, like you mentioned (69) career wins. I have to pinch myself many times, is it really true? But nowadays I have to set new goals, I have to push myself harder. Yes, I think about that. I wonder what my chances are, if I can do that. Obviously, you need a few good years to have a chance to achieve that.
Annika has worked exceptionally hard on her swing this year, so hard that it may have prevented her from winning a time or two. She and coach Henri Reis have been working on some technical fine-tuning, and they have spent many long hours at her Orlando residence going over drills which may finally have begun to pay dividends.
I have been working so hard on my swing for so long, she said. And I just haven't felt like I have been able to finish.
The British Open I started good, but I didn't finish. The first round here (at the State Farm), I started well and I didn't finish. It just seems like this year it's been 14 or 15 really good holes. In Atlanta I was leading and hit out-of-bounds on 17, which to me it's very rare. Normally, I am so consistent and I can finish.
Annika is about a month removed from her 36th birthday, and the wins will only get tougher and tougher from here on out. Lorena Ochoa has emerged as a major force, Karrie Webb has rejuvenated her slumping career, Michelle Wie looms, and a whole host of Koreans have emerged who can win. Winning, it must be said, is much more difficult.
Sorenstam could very easily get caught up in trying to beat Whitworths record. But she refuses to get caught in that trap. She breaks it down year-by-year, month-to-month, and round-by-round, even shot-by-shot. I think the key is to stay in the present, she said.
And even though you get off to a good (start), it's easy to start thinking about birdies, and thinking, Oh, I'm going to shoot a really low score. You have got to stay in the moment. The third hole is done with, and let's go to the fourth and play that. And it's, Let's hit one shot at a time.
And for me, it's short-term goals within the round. And that is why I used to say, put the flag in the center (of the fiarway) - that is my first goal. I have to get it there. And then you put a flag on the green, and that is my second goal. And I kind of plug along that way. And it's a way of breaking the round up - an easy way to stay in the moment rather than looking at 18 holes and thinking I have to shoot 65, or something to catch someone. That, to me, is very difficult.
Sorenstams quest certainly is not lost on her competitors. She is universally idolized by them.
I admire her, said Ochoa. She has been No. 1 for so long and she deserves to be No. 1.
Kerr has finished second to Annika probably eight or nine times in my career, she said, and it happened again at the State Farm when Sorenstam birdied five of the last six holes, including a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
You never can count her out, Kerr said. If she gets it going and she gets her confidence going, you know, anything is possible.
If the past four years are any indication, Annika is about to put it in another gear. During that time, Annika has averaged four wins a year after the first week of September. She may be just heating up.
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