So we come to Annika Sorenstam Sunday. The scene: the 72nd hole of the Weetabix Womens British Open, a 371-yarder, not long but very tight. She was tied with Se Ri Pak. The fairway was getting narrower by the second. And the psyche ' well, it was racing.
Annika had a lot of options off the final tee, but she chose the most difficult one ' driver. She was shaking a little as she stood up to hit it, but suddenly everything slowed down to half-speed level. She took a rip at it, and the ball soared up and out, splitting the fairway perfectly.
Pak swung ' and plopped the ball into a bunker.
Pak ultimately made a bogey, while Sorenstam made a simple par. Its pretty easy to two-putt from 10 feet ' which she did. The tough work had been done on the tee shot. And now today, Annika owns the career grand slam, having won all the womens majors at least once.
I could have hit a lot of clubs off that tee, she told a news conference afterwards. I saw what Se Ri did, and I was contemplating hitting a 7-wood left ' making the hole long, but safe.
But then I figured, You know, I have a chance to win. I can hit this drive just down the middle and have a short iron in and I can win the championship. I figured I had to make birdie, and with a 7-wood, it would have a very tough birdie.
As it developed, of course, par was good enough. But she figured she would probably need to make birdie to win, and she hit the only club that could conceivably put her in that position. She shelved the 7-wood, which probably would have made par for her. But chances were at the time that it would only lead to a playoff. She wasnt interested in playoffs when she might have a chance to wrap it up right then.
The 7-wood, of course, would have been the club of choice had it been impossible to calm the nerves. She would have had to hit 7-wood, then probably another 7-wood into the green, and hope for extra holes. But by taking the nerves head-on and playing a driver shot, she made birdie a real possibility.
Of course, it also made bogey a very real possibility if she missed the fairway. Would you hit the driver, knowing a 7-wood would probably be good enough to get into a playoff? You would, if you were Annika Sorenstam and you could get in control of the situation, instead of having the nerves jerk the club out of kilter on the downswing.
I keep telling myself, Youve hit the shot before, and you can do it, she explained how she made the adrenalin work to a positive result. Just focus on what youve got to do and try not to think about what happens if you make the putt, what happens if you dont.
Dont think about consequences ' just do what youve got to do.
Just do what youve got to do ' is it really that simple? If every time you could do that, just think
Of course, nobody does that. But Annika does it a high percentage. What she doesnt do is worry about it.
This is what it's all about, to have a chance to win a major championship where you've just got to perform, she said. I'm nervous, but I love it at the same time.
It's kind of a combination. I was very nervous on the first tee and I was very nervous on the last three holes. It's funny how the emotions work, but I hit some great shots when I needed to. And you know when you think about that, that's all the hard work. I mean, that's why I hit balls at night, that's why I hit so many putts, that's why I go to the gym, to be in this situation, and then to win. That's what motivates me and keeps me going. I love it.
In short, its the reason why she can control the nerves. It really doesnt happen any less often than to you or I ' when the nerves come around, Sorenstam certainly can feel it. It was an extreme nervousness when it came time to hit driver on 18.
But she striped it. On occasion it doesnt work ' remember the approach shot on the 18th at the Womens U.S. Open? But it doesnt matter. Nerves are nerves, and she knows the nerves are going to start jangling.
The difference is - most of the time she controls it.