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Annika's way: Instruction kept simple as swing

Posted: Tuesday October 5, 2004 11:09PM; Updated: Tuesday October 5, 2004 11:09PM
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AP Golf Writer

Ernie Els was intrigued when he saw the cover of the book, showing Annika Sorenstam looming large with a club over her shoulder and a smile on her face.

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He flipped through the pages and liked what he saw.

"I'll read this," Els said. "She does a lot of good things with her swing. Her basics are excellent."

He was looking at "Golf Annika's Way," which Gotham Books is releasing this week. Sorenstam wrote the instructional book with help from swing coach Henri Reis, longtime Swedish Golf Federation coach Pia Nilsson, trainer Kai Fusser and the editors of Golf magazine.

The purpose is to take readers inside her Hall-of-Fame career _ 53 victories on the LPGA Tour, seven major championships, the career Grand Slam, the only woman to shoot 59, and how she coped with the pressure as the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.

Els' unsolicited endorsement was important.

While there are plenty of instruction books on the market -- Els has done two of them himself -- very few have been written by women. Sorenstam is the most famous female golfer in the world, one of those rare athletes known by one name. Still, she believes her book can appeal to more than just women.

"I think it's for everyone,' Sorenstam said. "I think it will help the average golfer, somebody who understands a little bit of the game and wants to get better."

Sorenstam never realized she knew so much about the swing.

She describes herself as a feel player, and having played golf more than half her life, the swing comes naturally to her. Only when she went into the details, from hitting the driver to holing a few putts, did she appreciate how so many working parts fit together.

"It was amazing when we started to get into the instruction part of it," she said. "I had to express or explain something. I had to write it down, go step by step and find ways to make this easy. A lot of these things come naturally to me. But as a beginner, it's important to get down to the basics."

She never relied on instruction books as a kid in Sweden because she had a coach. Along with Reis putting her through drills (such as moving her head forward at impact, her signature move), Nilsson instilled the concept of "Vision 54," which teaches players not to put any limitations on themselves.

But writing an instruction book of her own?

"I've read a few of them, but I always felt like they were so complicated," Sorenstam said. "I wanted there to be a lot of pictures in this book, and easy explanations, not too detailed so that it's page after page of how to swing. I wanted to see examples _ yes, do this; no, don't do that."

Helping her along were Golf magazine senior editor Tara Gravel (biography and fitness chapters) and associate editor Dave Allen, who works with Sorenstam on instructional pieces for the magazine.

"The most amazing thing I can say about her is that all these guys on tour are constantly making swing changes, and major equipment changes," Allen said. "She's done it with the same swing, the same company (Callaway). Ever since she was a teenager, her swing hasn't changed."

Gravel worked with Sorenstam on two areas of the book that are geared more toward inspiration than instruction. One is some background on Sorenstam, how she got started and all the places it led her -- an NCAA title at Arizona, a U.S. Women's Open for her first win and that 4-wood off the 10th tee at Colonial. The other was fitness, although Sorenstam said she hopes that won't scare away anyone who can't squat 300 pounds.

The meat of the book is the swing, seven chapters that break down every facet of her game -- driving, fairway metals, long irons, wedges, chipping, bunker play and putting.

Two-time PGA champion Dave Stockton has been Sorenstam's putting guru for years. Sorenstam also offers chipping advice she got from playing one of several practice rounds with Tiger Woods.

Sorenstam used to hit a collection of clubs to chip around the green, from 7-iron to wedge. Playing with Woods, she noticed him using almost exclusively the sand wedge.

"There's a lot of things Tiger can do that I can't, because a lot of it is strength," she said. "But my feel has increased around the greens by using the same club. You learn different shots, different lofts, and you practice those. If you don't play golf every day, it's not the way to go."

If someone can only read one chapter, Sorenstam recommends the one on course management. That's an area she doesn't think gets enough attention, and one that has helped separate her from the rest of her peers.

She won't consider a risky shot unless she can pull it off six times out of 10. She would rather play a longer club into the green than a shorter one from the rough. If she can't reach a par 5 in two, sometimes it's not worth it to hit driver off the tee.

Material from this chapter came without warning. Allen was at Lake Nona for a photo shoot in December 2001, the year Sorenstam shot 59 in Phoenix.

"We were waiting for the dew to burn off and she just opened up," he said. "She loves to talk about course management."

What fascinated Allen is the lack of any course management on her opening hole at Colonial. Sorenstam said she and her caddie, Terry McNamara, had a strategy for every shot on the course except her first drive, because she had no idea how she would react -- or where the tee shot would go -- with the world watching.

"If she chunked it or bladed it into the crowd, they weren't putting any expectations on that shot," he said. "The only plan was to go find it and play from there."

Sorenstam split the middle of the fairway and went on to make a routine par.

She has a plan -- and high expectations -- for her first book. She hopes it can reach a lot of average players who want to get better, men and women alike.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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