Annika Sorenstam's career is defined by numbers. 59Sorenstam is the only woman ever to shoot a round in the 50s. 88the career wins record held by Kathy Whitworth, which Annika trails by only 26.
These numbers define Annika's greatness, and they drive the shy Swede toward heights that just a few years ago seemed unimaginable. From her home in Orlando, the Hall of Famer spoke candidly about her pursuit of the career wins record, her chances for a Grand Slam, her practice sessions with Tiger and her stock-market advice (diversify!).
Let's begin with a little number association. What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear these numbers ...54? My vision. Birdie every hole.
59? A great round. An awesome round. March 16th .
88? It's impossible.
Even at the rate you're racking up wins? At this rate, no. But how long can I keep up this rate?
How about four more for the 2005 Grand Slam? That's my goal. Right now, 88 is not really my goal. It doesn't seem possible because it's so far away. But winning four majors is possible because I've won 11 tournaments in one year, so I think I can win four. It's just a matter of winning the right four.
Which would be the greater accomplishment: 88 career wins or the Grand Slam? If I could choose, I'd want to win the Grand Slam.
Your frequent practice partner Tiger Woods is the only player alive to hold all four major titles at once (the "Tiger Slam"). Has he given you any advice? He and I have talked about it. He considers what he did a Grand Slam and so do I. He held all four titles. I remember him saying that the courses he played fit him perfectly. That's the thing: I think the courses I'm playing this year really suit me. So that's one factor. Then again, a lot depends on how the other players are playing. If someone gets really hot, there's little you can do. For example, at the 2002 U.S. Women's Open when Juli [Inkster] won, she made 40-, 60-, 80-footers. They told me afterward that 99 percent of the time my score would have won the U.S. Open.
You've won nine majors to date but you've gone on record as saying you should have won several more. What have you learned from those past failures in majors? Sometimes I want it too badly. The logical part of me knows what's going on. But when you're out there, does your heart know it? Can you control it? I'm going to be nervous at the U.S. Open. I'm going to be nervous at the British if I've won three [majors] in a row. I've never been there before so it would probably be like the Colonial, where I felt tremendous pressure on every shot. But that's cool because I know that's what it's going to take. I know I can win all four because I've done it--I just haven't done it in the same year. That's what makes it so hard. Everybody talks about it, the pressure builds and then my expectations start to build.
What's your most vivid memory about the day you fired 59? I remember the start because it was just so incredible. I birdied the first eight holes. The shots weren't really that great, but it was just the flow to it all and the momentum just kept building and building. I could do nothing wrong that day. Everything funneled to the green. Every putt had the right pace.
You birdied 12 of the first 13 holes that day. Describe what it feels like to be in the zone. First of all, it feels effortless. You don't think about hazards. You think about fairways and greens. When you putt, you see a big hole. You see the line. You don't question your decisions. You're never in between clubs: It's not between a 7- or 8-iron, it's either a 7 or an 8. You get good bounces. Your shots release the way you planned.
Is there one current LPGA player who you think could shoot 59? I think Grace [Park] has the ability to go really low. Has what happened in your personal life changed your thinking about how much longer you'll play? (Annika filed for divorce from her husband of eight years, David Esch, in February.) Yes. For me, it definitely has changed because now golf is all my life. It's sort of my way of dealing with the whole thing.