Sorenstam continues an historic streak
The numbers are making us numb. How else do you explain the indifference that has greeted Annika Sorenstam in another season of greatness?
Sorenstam won for the eighth time on Sunday, closing out the LPGA Tour season with a sudden-death playoff victory over Cristie Kerr, her 56th career LPGA title.
And her accomplishments have been met with a yawn.
Maybe it is because Vijay Singh, who also did not seem to get his due, won nine times on the PGA Tour. His career year came four seasons after Tiger Woods won nine times in 2000, which followed an eight-win campaign in 1999. Just two years ago, Sorenstam won 11 times and she has at least five victories in each of the last five seasons.
Maybe it is because we have been spoiled by such success.
Remember the great drama that surrounded Mark McGwire's chase of Roger Maris' home run record in 1998? McGwire passed Maris' mark of 61 and went on to hit 70. When Barry Bonds broke that record just a few years later, it was not accepted with the same reverence. Now the amazing accomplishment of hitting 60-plus homers does not generate the same excitement.
Has the same thing happened to Sorenstam?
"I think maybe people take it for granted," said Sorenstam, who passed the $2.5-million mark in earnings and didn't shoot a score over par after June. "I'm very proud of this year. I think I played some excellent golf. I've been more consistent this year compared to previous years. And I thought last year was very consistent.
"I think when you don't play as much, maybe people don't pay attention. But I'm very happy with my year."
Sorenstam cut back her schedule to prepare for the big events. She didn't play with the men like last season, when she made national headlines for competing at the PGA Tour's Colonial. And she failed in her stated goal of winning the Grand Slam by winning only one major championship.
That, of course, is a brutally difficult goal to set. And when she didn't win the first major at the Kraft Nabisco, what was left?
But that is the beauty of Sorenstam. She continues to find motivation despite having nothing left to prove, seemingly nothing left to achieve. At age 34, Sorenstam has already become a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. She has won each of the majors. She is in fifth place on the all-time victory list, just two behind Louise Suggs.
And yet, after a birdie at the 16th hole on Sunday tied Kerr, Sorenstam's adrenaline flowed like she were trying for her first title.
"I was so nervous the last two holes," she said. "I wanted to do it so badly."
That kind of attitude is what serves Sorenstam so well. Her pride is enormous, and although nobody would blame her, Sorenstam is not content to just show up and go through the motions.
Sorenstam is already thinking about the offseason. She will step up her workout routine, put more effort into her short game, which she believes is the area in need of the most improvement.
"I'm still looking to get better," she said. "If I can still work and get better, I don't see a reason why it should end."
That is a scary proposition. Barring an injury, if Sorenstam chooses to stalk greatness, why couldn't she run her victory total to 80? Why couldn't she surpass another goal of winning 10 majors? Why couldn't she win all four majors in one year?
All of that could be debated, but Sorenstam will probably get more attention this weekend at the Skins Game, where she is scheduled to compete with Woods, Fred Couples and Adam Scott. How she fares in the California desert against the men will likely be the subject of more conversation than her eight LPGA wins and 10 worldwide in 2004.
Perhaps it will be an opportunity for more attention to be focused on another outstanding year.
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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