Sorenstam is good and getting better, which is her overarching goal. Swedish golf is much the same. The country has 360,000 avid golfers, and an unusually high proportion of them are very skillful. At Pine Needles, Catrin Nilsmark, a 28-year-old Swede, finished seventh and Liselotte Neumann—the first Swede to win a U.S. Open, in 1988—tied for eighth. Nilsson works with Neumann too, and Neumann, 30, has long been a model for Sorenstam.
"Why does Liselotte practice one-foot putts?" Sorenstam asked one day last winter as she and Nilsson stood on the practice putting green of the Del Mar (Calif.) Country Club.
"Because she likes to hear the sound of the ball dropping," Nilsson answered.
"I like short putts because I can see the hole," Sorenstam said. "Longer putts, I can't."
"Can you close your eyes and see a hole?" Nilsson asked.
Sorenstam closed her bright blue eyes and stood for a moment in the dark. "Not as well," she said.
"You can work on that," said the coach, and the pupil nodded. At Pine Needles, Sorenstam was seeing holed putts in her dreams.
Swedish golfers are, by stereotype, robotic, with technically excellent, gymnasium-developed swings that falter in the varying conditions imposed by tournament golf. Sorenstam defies the generalization. She has won in the wind, in the rain, in the cold and in four days of sunny, warm weather, the prevailing conditions at Pine Needles. In the bright sunshine, spectators could see that Sorenstam's swing, while simple and repeatable, is not robotic. In fact, there is an element of eccentricity to it. As her club head makes contact, her head is already up and ahead of the ball, pointed in the direction she wants the ball to travel. Sorenstam looks up to help get her body through the ball, she says. Her head-up position makes her enviably target-oriented. It lets her come close to fulfilling the brilliant advice of Ty Webb, the club golfer played by Chevy Chase in Caddy-shack: "Be the ball."
Sorenstam believes good golf starts in the head. On memo pads she carries in her back pocket, she records her moods after rounds and practice sessions. "Happy, aggressive, focused, patient," she wrote down awhile back, and on some future day, when she's not feeling happy or focused or patient or aggressive, she'll return to that page to recapture those moods.
After her triumph on Sunday, Sorenstam was asked what thoughts she'll record. "I don't know exactly what I'll write, but I think I'll credit myself," she said. "Sometimes I'm too hard on myself. I gave 100 percent. I was focused." She was also happy, aggressive and patient.