It was the season finale, and Annika Sorenstam was running on
empty. In October she had added two tournaments to her schedule,
in Korea and Mobile, hell-bent on the idea of reaching 13
victories. The Swedish golfer loves numbers. She knows where the
NASDAQ stands, the length of her average drive (265.6 yards) and
the number of events the legendary Mickey Wright won in 1963 (13).
No woman golfer has ever won more in a year.
Sorenstam came to the season's final tournament with 12 victories
in 2002: 10 LPGA events, plus two in Europe. Twelve out of 24
events! (Wright played in 33 tournaments in '63, all LPGA stops.)
Sorenstam is 32 years old, married, no children. She knows her
clock--the clock of a driven athlete, the clock of a would-be
mother--is ticking. She knows she can go this hard only so long.
Next November (when she will have completed the required 10 tour
seasons) she will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
That is not enough for her. Sorenstam wants admission to the
pantheon, alongside the likes of Kathy Whitworth, Jack Nicklaus
and most especially Wright, who swung a golf club as beautifully
as anybody who has ever played. For that, Sorenstam needed to do
the extraordinary. She needed to win last week at the ADT
Championship at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach,
Fla. Nothing else would do.
Last chance. By late Sunday afternoon she had buried most of the
competition, including Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster,
all superb players, all winners of majors this year. All that
stood in her way were two holes and Rachel Teske, a two-time
winner in '02. Pesky Teske. If Sorenstam had Teske's putting
game, she'd be a golfing machine, truly. Tee to green, Sorenstam
is a machine. She hits eight out of 10 fairways and eight out of
10 greens. Nobody in golf does that, not even Tiger Woods. She's
Hogan, except she's pleasant.
The day had been gorgeous, and now the shadows were long.
Sorenstam was in the penultimate group, with the elegant Patricia
Meunier-Lebouc of Dijon, France. Teske was in the last pairing,
with her fellow Aussie, Webb, who may be more talented than
Sorenstam but by her own admission is less driven.
December 2, 2002
When it was done, Meunier-Lebouc, who trailed the leaders by five
going into Sunday, said she knew the outcome before the day's
first ball was hit, even though Sorenstam, tied with Webb, was
behind Teske by a shot entering the final round. "Because she is
so clear in the head, you know she will find a way to win," said
the French golfer. Still, the shots had to be played.
Sorenstam does not make mental errors. She misses short putts,
she occasionally hits shots off line, but her mistakes are
typically in play. "It's not how good your good shots are," she
says. "It's how good your bad shots are." Words to golf by. As
she came off the tee on the 176-yard, par-3 7th, she heard a ball
plunk into a pond. She looked up and realized immediately that
Webb, trying to drive the green on the 335-yard, par-4 6th, had
gone astray. Webb would make a 6 and never be in the hunt again.
By the time Sorenstam reached the 17th tee, you could see the
strain of the year on her. She has been working out intensively
for the past two years, and her body has changed. She has bulked
up, becoming bigger from the waist down, much bigger in the upper
arms. She's added 15 yards to her drives without losing any
accuracy. The exhaustion on 17 wasn't her body giving out; it was
mental fatigue from all the grinding she had done, on every shot,
thousands of them over the course of the year, each played with
the goal of making her mark on the game. It was in her eyes that
she looked worn-out.
One more good one. She talks to herself often, sometimes in
Swedish, when she's mad at herself, in English the rest of the
time. The leader board over the 17th green showed Sorenstam at 12
under par through 16 and Teske at 11 under through 15, on a
course where much can go wrong. The 17th is a par-3, the green
surrounded by water, playing 169 yards on Sunday. That's a
seven-iron for Sorenstam, with her new body. The click of club
face and ball was perfect. The ball soared without curve and
stopped three feet from the hole. She made the putt. Thirteen
under. For Sorenstam on Sunday, 13 was a lucky number. Throughout
the day she said to herself, Thirteen, 13, I've got to get my 13
wins. A par on 18 kept her at 13 under. Meanwhile, Teske blinked.
After a birdie on 16 she made a 5 on 17, and with a par on the
home hole she took second place, three shots back. The
30-year-old Teske has won six LPGA events, two of them
particularly sweet--playoff victories over Sorenstam. She's
competing against a legend in the making, and she knows it. When
Annika won her 13th of the year back in '02, your grandmother was
Sorenstam won the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco
Championship, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage,
Calif., in March. She finished first on the money list, with just
over $2.86 million, and had the lowest scoring average, 68.70,
breaking her own record from last year, when she won eight times.
She has 42 LPGA victories, including four majors (two U.S. Opens
and two Nabiscos). Her 11 LPGA wins this year match Wright's 11
in '64, tying her for second in the tour record book for
victories in a year. It's staggering. It's continuing, for now.
"I want to see how good I can be," Sorenstam says. "My trainer
says I am at only 70 percent of my maximum strength. I can play
2003 as hard as I played this year. I want to play 2004 as a Hall
of Famer. After that, I don't know. I want to be a mother. I
don't think I can be a mother and devote myself to golf the way I
need to. I'm too competitive." One goal is to win 50 LPGA events.
Nancy Lopez, who retired this year, won 48. Nancy Lopez is in the
The golfer she brings most to mind is Woods. "They both look like
they've done it before they've done it," says Sorenstam's caddie,
Terry McNamara. "They've played the shot in practice, and they've
played the shot in their mind, and now they're just going to play
the shot that's in front of them."
Woods and Sorenstam are the same golfer, really. They work harder
than their competition, and they outthink their competition. The
competition knows it. Both have the lead before the first shot is
The Lady and the Tiger
Annika Sorenstam is sure to win the LPGA's Player of the Year
award, and Tiger Woods is a lock for the PGA Tour's. But who had
the superior season? Here's how they match up in several key
categories on their respective tours.
CATEGORY SORENSTAM WOODS
Tournaments 23 18
Wins (pct.) 11 (.478) 5 (.278)
Majors won 1 2
Top 10 finishes 20 13
Earnings $2,863,904 $6,912,625
Pct. of purses 10.3% 8.2%
won in events
Scoring avg. 68.70 (1) 68.56 (1)
Final round avg. 68.86 67.71
Avg. victory margin 3.27 3.00
Cuts missed 1 0
Low round 62 63