And, in a development that went totally unnoticed at the time - Annika Sorenstam missed the cut at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. She missed it by one stroke after shooting 75 the second day. It was Sorenstams fourth missed cut in the first nine events she played rookie season on the LPGA. This, after being the rookie of the year the previous year on the Ladies European Tour.
Sorenstam was obviously deeply disappointed at missing the cut at Kingsmill. She wasnt certain of the last time she wasnt playing on Sunday. But she was acutely aware that something isnt right.
I know it's been a long time since (she missed a cut), Annika said. It's just not something I keep track of. I like to keep track of wins.
Then she undoubtedly knows that her last victory came March 12 of this year when she won the MasterCard Classic in her first outing. But she probably can also tell you that she has played five times since then, finishing tied for second once, tied for fourth once, tied for sixth once and tied for 19th - this in addition to the results of last week.
None of these results would be bad for any other LPGA player. But for Annika Sorenstam, who had won 45 of her last 102 LPGA events, it is subpar golf, no question. It is, what with the MC at Kingsmill, shocking - theres no other word for it.
Is Annika losing some of her skills at age 35, or is the rest of the LPGA getting better? The feeling here is there has been a tremendous increase in LPGA talent. But there is no question that Sorenstam hasnt got her game uncorked yet.
For example, Annika is averaging 70.38 this year in scoring. In 2004 she averaged 69.33, a full stroke higher. That is Annika vs. the golf courses on the LPGA, with no opponents factoring into the equation.
In 2005, Sorenstam was 29th in putting. This year shes 74th. In 2005, she was fourth in driving accuracy. This year, shes 103. Clearly, she hasnt been the player in 2006 that she has been the last five years.
I feel like I'm playing well, said Annika. This year is not really going anyway at all. I have to keep on grinding and keep on going. That's really all I can do.
Magnifying her difficulties is the fact that Karrie Webb won for the second time in the past six weeks. Webb was actually a better player than Sorenstam in 1999 and 2000, but then began slipping in 2001 while a determined Annika picked her game up. Webb won just twice in a three-year span beginning in 2003, while Sorenstam has won 24 times.
In 2006, though, beginning with the first major ' the Kraft Nabisco ' it has been a far different story. Webb won that tournament, won the Michelob, and has finished second twice. At 31, her career is on the upswing again.
The rest of the LPGA was stunned at Annika missing the cut. Cristi Kerr shook her head in wonderment.
You know, said Kerr, I've played with her a lot over the years, and I haven't seen her like this in a while. Everybody goes through this period of golf in their career, and she's certainly been on the top of the leaderboard for a very long time.
So golf goes in cycles. It just seems like this year, even though she did win in Mexico (at the MasterCard), it seems like she's been struggling more this near than in other years.
Juli Inkster reacted in disbelief. She could just remember what the past 10 years have been like, with Sorenstam continually exhibiting excellence.
Annika has definitely set the bar, said Inkster. That's what everybody strives to be, is the No. 1 player for the last gazillion years. So maybe everybody is just working a little harder on their games.
Annika herself wasnt offering excuses. She came, she played, she missed the cut. Others are left to ponder why, but she is just working on her next event and trying to start another streak.
I think I'm just playing the way I normally do, Sorenstam said. It's just not turning out.
Today (Friday) I hit 13 greens, yesterday 14 greens. There's no reason why I can't make any more birdies. I mean, it seems like there were birdies out there because the people in my group made them, so I know they are there.
I just have to keep on working and keep on grinding and stay positive.
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