Commentary

Shooting 59 among Annika's many career highlights

Updated: May 15, 2008, 6:59 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

During Tuesday's news conference to announce that she will retire at season's end, Annika Sorenstam was asked which of her accomplishments makes her proudest.

"I have several things that make me proud," the 72-time LPGA tournament winner said. "Overall, just the consistency, playing every year and being in contention, and to be player of the year eight times is something I'm very proud of. To single a few things out: shooting 59; my performance at the Colonial; winning 10 majors. There's a lot of things; I mean, three U.S. Opens. My mind is going a little blank. I'm just very thankful for everything."

Well, Sorenstam might not be able to rank 'em … but that doesn't mean we can't. Let's take a look at the top 10 moments in her illustrious career:

1. 2001 Standard Register Ping

The only disappointment in Sorenstam's second-round performance at this event was that, shockingly, it could have been better. On the final hole, she missed a 10-foot birdie putt, "settling" for a score of 13-under 59.

"I made such an incredible start, and it was such fun, to put it mildly," she said after carding 13 birdies, five pars and no bogeys on the 6,459-yard Moon Valley CC in Phoenix. "By the end, I started to get very nervous. But now I'm so proud and happy."

Two days later, she ensured the magic number didn't go for naught, winning by two strokes over Se Ri Pak. And it wasn't long before "59" became a visible symbol on her visor and golf ball.

[+] EnlargeAnnika Sorenstam
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesAnnika Sorenstam's 59 at the Standard Register Ping tournament is a round for the ages.

2. 2003 Colonial

So many unfortunate things could have happened during Sorenstam's quick journey into the unknown. She could have shot rounds of well over par on a course much longer than those to which she was accustomed. She could have felt the cold stares from PGA Tour members who didn't want her competing in their tournament.

Instead, Sorenstam performed ably and gracefully, shooting 71-74 to miss the cut by four strokes, but earning legions of supporters in the process. The first woman to play on the PGA Tour in 58 years, her intention wasn't to be a trailblazer; she wanted only to test her game against the world's best. In the end, she did both.

''I don't regret anything about coming here,'' Sorenstam said after Round 2 that week. ''If a lady is good enough to get an invite or she qualifies, she should have every right to come here.''

3. 1995 U.S. Women's Open

This is where the legend began. Entering the week, Sorenstam not only had not won a major, she had never won an LPGA event. At the Broadmoor, she triumphed over Meg Mallon by one.

"This young Swede, Annika Sorenstam, just like Betsy King [in 1990], was just kind of hanging around and shot a couple under par," Mallon remembered 10 years later. "I had an opportunity with a putt on the last hole to tie her and missed it."

Sorenstam became the 14th player in history to capture a major championship for her initial LPGA victory.

4. 2001 The Office Depot hosted by Amy Alcott

In LPGA circles, it's simply called "The Comeback."

Sorenstam trailed by a seemingly insurmountable 10 strokes going into the final round, but she rallied to post a 6-under 66 that Sunday to force a sudden-death playoff with Mi Hyun Kim. She won on the first extra hole, tying Mickey Wright's greatest final-round comeback record, set at the 1964 Tall City Open.

"I've always said it's never over until it's over," Sorenstam later said. "And that was the truth."

5. 2003 Women's British Open

The erstwhile du Maurier Classic came and went without Sorenstam once winning the title. Once the Women's British took over as the year's final major, in 2001, it took just three years for her to claim victory, becoming the sixth player in history to win the career Grand Slam.

Having needed a par on the final hole to defeat Se Ri Pak at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Sorenstam later revealed her strategy. "I was contemplating hitting a 7-wood left, making the hole long but safer," she said. "But then I figured, 'You know, I have a chance to win. I can hit this drive right down the middle and have a short iron in -- and I can win the championship.'"

And that's exactly what happened.

6. 2003 Solheim Cup

You're never going to believe this, but the all-time points leader in Solheim Cup history is … Annika Sorenstam. Although she owns a 22-11-4 career record at the biennial team competition, Sorenstam's European squad has a 2-6 record since she became a team stalwart in 1994.

[+] EnlargeAnnika Sorenstam
David Cannon/Getty ImagesSorenstam's work at the 2003 Solheim Cup was a career highlight.

Sorenstam's first team win at the Solheim came in 2000, but she owned a 2-2-0 record that week. Instead, the choice here is the 2003 edition, when she was the local favorite at Barsebäck Golf & Country Club in Loddekopinge, Sweden, and led the Europeans with a 4-1-0 mark.

Asked afterward where the victory ranked among her individual pursuits, Sorenstam said, "It rates up there, for sure."

7. 2005 Kraft Nabisco Championship

Winning the year's first major in dominating fashion -- an eight-stroke victory over Rosie Jones -- was important in its own right, but it also marked another record-tying performance for Sorenstam.

The victory was her fifth consecutive, matching the record set by Nancy Lopez in 1978. The streak started with the Mizuno Classic and ADT Championship in 2004, then continued in '05 with the MasterCard Classic and Safeway International before the Kraft Nabisco.

"I had a lot of things go right this week," Sorenstam said. "I felt really good. I felt calm. Hit some good shots. I got some good bounces. I've been driving down the street, it's been green lights. Everything is perfect. Good music on the radio, you name it. It's been a great week."

Just another week in the life of Annika Sorenstam.

8. 2005 McDonald's LPGA Championship

In the men's game, only six players have claimed a specific major championship in back-to-back-to-back years (Willie Anderson, U.S. Open, 1903-05; Tom Morris Jr., British Open, 1868-70; Jamie Anderson, British Open, 1877-79; Bob Ferguson, British Open, 1880-82; Peter Thomson, British Open, 1954-56; and Walter Hagen, PGA Championship, 1924-27).

It had never happened in the women's game until 2005, when Sorenstam took her third consecutive McDonald's LPGA Championship by three strokes over Michelle Wie.

"I can think of about 10 reasons why I was nervous," she later said. "It's a Sunday in a major championship and a lot at stake, three in a row, you name it."

It would become a recurring theme for Sorenstam during the 2005 season, as she would successfully defend a remarkable six of her eight titles.

More Sorenstam

Golf World's Ron Sirak, in a story for the magazine's May 16 issue, says the time was right for Sorenstam to retire. It was released Tuesday after being embargoed until the Sorenstam's news conference. Story

More from GolfDigest.com:
Sorenstam photo gallery
From April: Sirak on Sorenstam

More from GolfforWomen.com:
Sorenstam's life after golf
Editors' blog: Learning the ropes with a legend

9. 2002 ADT Championship

Truth be told, there wasn't anything too spectacular about Sorenstam's victory at the season-ending event in '02 -- she won by three over Rachel Teske -- but that's exactly what made it so special.

The title was Sorenstam's 11th of the year, tying the mark for second-most in a single season.

"I feel like I'm walking on clouds," she said after completing a season during which she set or tied 20 LPGA records. "Life is nice. It's going my way, obviously. … I'm just very thankful, obviously, that it's all happening to me. And I've always said I loved what I do, but right now, I really love what I do."

10. 2000 Welch's Circle K Championship

Sorenstam carded her second career hole-in-one in an LPGA event during the third round, but she claimed something much more important the next day. As soon as the final putt dropped on the second hole of her sudden-death playoff against Pat Hurst, Sorenstam qualified for the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Sure, she had to wait three years -- competing for the minimum decade on tour -- before actually being inducted, but Sorenstam's haul toward the Hall came in record time.

"I'm a little overwhelmed at achieving this so quickly in my career," she said during her 2003 acceptance speech. "However, I'm very honored to be a part of this elite group."

Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

ALSO SEE