Leaving peers behind, Sorenstam looks ahead
by Associated Press
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The biggest challenge for Annika Sorenstam is setting goals.
She already is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, inducted a year ago at the ripe old age of 33. She completed the career Grand Slam last year by winning the Women's British Open. She won for the 50th time on the LPGA in April. She would like to win three more majors to give her 10, but only because that sounds like a nice number.
"Because I have come so far in my career, (there's) nothing that is still out there," Sorenstam said.
Maybe she's not looking far enough.
Two years ago, when she won 11 times on the LPGA Tour, Sorenstam said she wasn't interested in chasing Kathy Whitworth's career record of 88 victories. At the time, she wasn't even halfway there.
But when Sorenstam ended another amazing season Sunday -- eight wins despite playing only 18 times on the LPGA Tour -- she had 56 career victories and was No. 5 on the list.
"I never thought 88 was possible, and I'm still so far away from it," she said. "I just wonder if I can continue on this pace. If I don't continue on this pace, there's no way. If it does happen, obviously that would be just be incredible."
The Swede repeated that 88 wins is not among her goals... yet.
"Maybe if I reach 75," she said. "But then you've still got another 13, and that could take five years. I don't know. It really sounds so impossible. I guess you should never say 'never."'
The record still seems out of reach, but much more reasonable considering her dominance of women's golf.
When she captured the ADT Championship in a playoff at Trump International, it gave Sorenstam 33 victories over the last four years - more than Hall of Famers Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster have won in their careers.
"I don't think people realize how hard it is to do what Annika has done," Cristie Kerr said.
Two more years like that, and Sorenstam might find herself closer to Whitworth than she ever dreamed.
Much of that depends on her desire and motivation, neither of which appears to be waning. Another factor could be her competition. Se Ri Pak and Grace Park have made some headway, and Meg Mallon might have found a second wind by capturing the Women's Open. Still, there doesn't seem to be a Vijay Singh on the horizon.
"I hope he's not coming," Sorenstam said, joking.
Tiger Woods won 32 times over five years, including four majors in a row, and looked unstoppable. Singh predicted that great run would end early in the 2003 season, then spent the next two years tracking him down until he supplanted Woods at No. 1 in the world.
No one works harder than Sorenstam. No one produces better under pressure.
She was third in driving distance, and led the LPGA Tour by hitting 79 percent of her greens in regulation. Her average score was 68.70, which was a massive 1.29 strokes ahead of Grace Park. The only reason Sorenstam didn't win the Vare Trophy was because she didn't play the minimum 70 rounds.
How long can this last?
"I try not to think about when will my streak end," Sorenstam said. "I try to look forward, not backward. There are still parts of my game that can improve. If I can still work and get better, I don't see a reason why it should end. If I get an injury or if my motivation disappears or if I'm not getting better ... then yes, it probably will."
The greatness of Sorenstam is that even the spectacular years look routine. She had a hard time finding a signature moment in 2004, a year in which she had five more wins and $1 million more in prize money than anyone else.
"It's going to rank up there. Maybe not the best year," she said. "This year is great because I didn't play as much, but I was still able to be up there."
None of her peers was surprised. Kerr had a breakout year with three victories. Mallon captured the biggest prize in women's golf among her three wins. Both their years were not even close to Sorenstam's success.
"Everyone's talking about Vijay's year," Mallon said, referring to Singh's nine victories on the PGA Tour. "She's done it for the last six years. My years on tour, I've seen great players, and Annika is one of them. Those great players always go through a down time. She hasn't done that.
"I just think Annika is enjoying herself more now the last couple of years," Mallon said. "I see her playing maybe a little longer than what she thinks she might."
Sorenstam's only mission in 2004 was to become the first player, male or female, to win all four professional majors in the same season. That fell apart when she shot 76 in the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship and wound up in a tie for 13th, matching her worst finish of the year.
With nothing else on the agenda, she still cranked out eight victories.
What's next, Annika?
Another crack at the Grand Slam, for sure.
Sorenstam will play in the Skins Game against Woods, Fred Couples and Adam Scott this weekend in California.
Then, she will put the clubs up for about a month until she gets the itch to play and starts thinking about what she wants to accomplish.
"Who knows? After Christmas, we'll see what crazy ideas I get," she said.