All focus on Sorenstam's record streak
Even Annika Sorenstam finds many of her accomplishments mind-boggling.
Like her stretch of 43 rounds at par or better. Or all the gaudy stats behind her long list of victories.
But having a chance to make history by winning her sixth straight tournament? That's not overwhelming, that's exhilarating.
"I love it,'' Sorenstam said Wednesday, a broad grin splashing across her face. "That is what keeps me motivated and going. I love the chance. It has a meaning other than just trying to finish good in a week. That I can make history, I love that. That is fun pressure.
"Not a lot of people have this chance,'' she added. "As a matter of fact, when I had the chance to win five in a row and I didn't succeed [in 2001], I never thought I would have the chance to do it again. Hopefully, I will do better this time.''
She'll find out soon enough. After tying Nancy Lopez's LPGA record with five consecutive victories, Sorenstam can have the mark all to herself if she wins the Michelob Ultra Open, which begins Thursday.
"It's an amazing accomplishment that's happening,'' Meg Mallon said. "Hopefully she'll be in the hunt and have a chance at it.''
In her 12th season as a pro, Sorenstam already has made plenty of history. She's won 59 tournaments, including eight majors. She's completed the career Grand Slam, only the sixth LPGA player to do so, and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
She's shot a 59, and she was the first woman to play on the PGA Tour since 1945 when she teed it up at Colonial two years ago.
Yet weeks like this are still special, another chance to set herself apart.
"My goal for the year was to win majors. ... This is a very important week for me for different reasons,'' she said. "I'd like to play well here, continue the streak and continue to play well. I'm three-for-three, all of a sudden it's important stuff this week.''
And, bad news for everybody else on the tour, she might be better equipped to keep a run like this going than ever been before.
When Sorenstam was trying to become the first player to win three straight times at the U.S. Women's Open in 1997, she missed the cut. When she was trying to tie Lopez's winning streak at the 2001 Longs Drug Challenge, rain shortened the tournament to 54 holes and she tied for 43rd.
But whether it's maturity, her record of success, the circus that surrounded her appearance at the Colonial or even the upheavals in her personal life, Sorenstam is approaching this latest milestone with surprising calm.
"I have learned to be patient,'' she said. "And then again, I have more confidence. I know that if I have four days to play, I can turn a bad round into a good one. I can be patient and play well.''
Her game is also better than it's ever been. She's played her last 43 rounds at par or better, and has shot in the 60s six times this year.
"She has raised the bar for women's golf,'' Paula Creamer said. "If you are going to win, you have to beat Annika. That's the bottom line right now.''
As if Sorenstam needed any extra edge, she's been getting some tips from good friend Tiger Woods. The two occasionally work together, and Sorenstam said he's been particularly helpful with her short game.
"He can hit any shot,'' she said. "His imagination is great. For me, it is eye opening.''
But she holds her own, too.
"I am proud of what I achieved on the golf course. I'm getting better every year,'' she said. "Having said that, I am reaching what I think is my peak.''
Despite her success, Sorenstam's march on history isn't generating quite the same buzz as Woods did when he won six straight PGA Tour events at the end of the 1999 season and the start of 2000. Back then, all the chatter was whether he could make a run at Byron Nelson's seemingly untouchable streak of 11 straight.
Maybe it's because Sorenstam's run has been over an extended period of time. Lopez's streak was in a six-week span; Sorenstam started hers last November. It's been five weeks since her last win, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, a layoff so long some of her fellow players have jokingly asked Sorenstam how her offseason was.
But a winning streak like this is impressive, Mallon said, regardless of how it's done.
"I can't believe that it's not talked about more. Here's someone that could possibly change history,'' Mallon said. "What Annika's doing is amazing.''
Asked what it's going to take to beat her this week, Mallon just laughed.
"A 65 on Sunday helps,'' said Mallon, who shot that to overtake Sorenstam at the Women's Open last year. "It's definitely a challenge, and something you like to see. When you win out here, you hope it's against the best.''
And that's what Sorenstam finds so exhilarating.
Back when she was a rookie, she wondered if she'd win one tournament.
"Winning is contagious,'' she said. "I'd like to continue to do that.''
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