targets LPGA win record
What should be a victory lap for Annika
Sorenstam has turned into a sprint to the finish. The Swede wants to win all five
tournaments left on the LPGA Tour schedule to break Mickey Wright's record of
13 victories, set in 1963.
``I wouldn't have thought she
could win nine,'' said Judy Rankin, a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame and a golf
analyst for ABC Sports. ``I'm surprised, with the quality of players on the LPGA,
that anyone can be this dominant. And she absolutely has been. It's astounding.''
numbers speak for themselves.
Sorenstam already has won half of the 18 tour
events she's played, the same pace Wright set 39 years ago.
Take away the
Women's British Open, the only cut she missed this year, and Sorenstam hasn't
finished lower than third since May. Her scoring average is 68.55, nearly a full
stroke lower than the record she set last year.
``I'm very happy with my
season so far,'' she said. ``But I have the chance to make it spectacular.''
winning at least three of the final five tournaments, Sorenstam could become golf's
first $3 million woman. And if she wins them all, the record described as one
``that may never be touched'' on page 346 of the LPGA Tour media guide will belong
``When you say, 'It may never be broken,' then you might start to
believe it,'' said Sorenstam, who turns 32 Wednesday. ``I don't believe in those
things. It's possible, and that's what keeps me going forward.''
is advancing into a realm of her own.
The notion of a ``Big Three'' in women's
golf was still around as recently as July after Karrie Webb won the British Open,
and Se Ri Pak won the LPGA Championship.
Sorenstam has separated herself
so quickly, and by such a vast margin, that her biggest rival now appears to be
Wright, perhaps the greatest female golfer ever, with a swing that Ben Hogan once
said was the best he had ever seen.
Rankin has a good perspective on both
players. She was an 18-year-old in her second season on the LPGA Tour when Wright
set the record. As a broadcaster, Rankin now sees plenty of Sorenstam.
don't think Mickey thrived on competition or got wrapped up in competition. Mickey
was wrapped up in excellence,'' Rankin said. ``Annika can get wrapped up in both.''
does not have the classic swing of Wright, but it is sweet and simple, and deadly
accurate. She turns her head toward the fairway before making contact and is rarely
surprised by the flight of the ball.
Sorenstam is fourth in driving accuracy,
fifth in driving distance and leads the LPGA Tour in greens in regulation with
an astounding 80 percent.
``I think she has become the most precise golfer
we've ever known in women's golf,'' Rankin said. ``When you couple that with strength
and length, she's a little different than anyone we've had.''
is the only woman to shoot 59 in competition, and the first to earn $2 million
in one year. Her victory last week in the Samsung World Championship was the 40th
of her career.
What sets her apart is her mind.
She talks openly about
the perfect round -- 18 birdies for a score of 54, a concept preached to her by
Swedish golf coach Pia Nilsson. That Sorenstam believes a 54 is even remotely
possible explains why she seeks perfection in a sport that has never granted anyone
such a wish.
Her workout routine has made her the strongest, fittest player
in women's golf.
Sorenstam already was the best woman off the tee, and a
recent club switch made her drives longer and straighter. Despite winning six
times this year, Sorenstam switched her putting grip to cross-handed at the Williams
Championship in Tulsa, Okla., last month.
That was the first of three straight
victories, a streak she takes to the Tournament of Champions this week in Mobile,
``She is not shy about uncovering weaknesses,'' Hall-of-Famer Carol
Mann said. ``And because she is able to uncover her weaknesses and solve them,
that continues to propel her to become better and better.''
Mann is one
of only four women to have won at least 10 times in one season. Ben Hogan, Sam
Snead and Byron Nelson are the only men to win that many events in one year.
probably will be the next.
What impresses Mann the most about Sorenstam
is the control she has over three aspects of tournament golf -- physical skills,
mental skills and handling the emotions that come with winning so often.
is seductive,'' Mann said. ``When you're successful, you think that's all there
is. You don't need to be any better. In her case, she has chosen to continue to
look for improvement. And that's very rare.''
If Sorenstam keeps going,
she will find herself in rare company.
Or maybe in a league of her own.
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