No Contest

Annika Sorenstam nearly lapped the field at the Nabisco, fueling talk of a Grand Slam. Is she the best ever?
April 03, 2005

Annika sorenstam would have none of it. Idling in the media tent an hour after her eight-stroke romp at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday, Sorenstam was asked if she ever took a moment to consider her legacy, which now counted eight major titles among 59 LPGA tour victories. "No," she said. "I push myself to be the best I can be. I don't worry about what other people are doing, and I don't think about things I can't control."

So being thought of as the best female player ev--. For the first time all week Sorenstam failed herself, stopping the questioner with a laugh even as she apologized for the interruption.

Well, Sorenstam can chortle all she wants. But in the aftermath of nearly lapping the field with a 15-under-par 273 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., she'd do well to start taking the "best ever" label seriously (LIFE OF REILLY, page 142). She has five wins in her last five starts (tying the LPGA record for consecutive victories set by Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez in 1978), and if she continues her near-perfect play--she was much longer off the tee than her playing partners and was bogey-free over the last 39 holes--the usual talk of a possible Grand Slam, her stated Holy Grail, will seem anything but far-fetched this year.

"It just seems so easy for her, so automatic--right now, she's the perfect athlete playing this game," said Lopez, a 48-time LPGA tour winner. "I think, really and truly, that she's better than Tiger Woods. We have a lot of great players out here, and no one is coming close to her."

Sorenstam's contemporaries were mostly in agreement. "What's amazing is that no one part of her game stands out," said Christina Kim, who finished 23 shots back. "We always hear about Annika and the Grand Slam, but this year it seems really possible. I'd bet on her."

Said a begrudging Grace Park, the defending Nabisco champion who tied for fifth, "This [win] only shows that she's that much better than the rest of us."

Eight weeks after filing for divorce from her husband of eight years and former caddie, David Esch, Sorenstam appears undisturbed by recent developments in her personal life. Says one friend, "By the end of last year, it was all very rough on her. But she knew she could rely on herself to get through it. She's showing how mentally tough she is."

Sorenstam opened the tournament with a two-under 70, looking afterward as though she'd eaten a rotten plum. But a second-round 69 buoyed her spirits, and a 66 on Saturday had her soaring five shots clear of the field. She cruised home on Sunday with a 68. "I felt really good this week," she said. "When I've been driving down the street, it's been nothing but green lights--everything is perfect. Good music on the radio, you name it."

When she putted out on Sunday, the celebratory eruption at the 18th green was even sweeter music. After a champagne shower Sorenstam and her sister, Charlotta, made the clumsy leap into the greenside pond, followed by their barreling mother, Gunilla, and caddie Terry McNamara. As the four paddled about, Annika side-stroked away from the fray, waving and smiling, as though inviting anyone interested to join her for a dip.

No one took the bait. Only a fool would swim with a shark.

Hard Labor

How tough was the TPC at Sawgrass playing over the final 36 holes of the Players Championship on Sunday and Monday? In the last round the 18th played harder than any other hole on the PGA Tour this year at .817 strokes above par, and the island-green 17th (above) was the second-toughest in relation to par. The two holes also made the top 10 list for the damage they did in the third round, as did the 14th in the final round. Here are the 10 toughest holes of the 2005 Tour to date.

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Rank Course

Hole

Round

Par

Stroke avg.

1 TPC at Sawgrass

18

Fourth

4

4.817

2 TPC at Sawgrass

17

Fourth

3

3.780

3 Pebble Beach

9

Fourth

4

4.688

4 TPC Scottsdale

14

First

4

4.664

5 Bay Hill

18

First

4

4.653

6 TPC at Sawgrass

14

Fourth

4

4.634

7 Waialae CC

1

First

4

4.597

8 TPC at Sawgrass

17

Third

3

3.578

9 TPC at Sawgrass

18

Third

4

4.578

10 Torrey Pines South

4

Fourth

4

4.531

 

TWO COLOR PHOTOSTODD BIGELOW/AURORA (2) DRIVER'S SEAT Sorenstam was long off the tee and had no bogeys over the last 39 holes. COLOR PHOTOFRED VUICH (TPC)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)