The Drive For Five
The dam that has contained so many records for so long has sprung a leak. In the midst of Tiger Woods's four-major winning streak, Annika Sorenstam has also been making history on a grand scale.
The 30-year-old Swede's fourth straight victory, last week in Los Angeles at the Office Depot, tied the LPGA record held by Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth for consecutive tournaments won. Sorenstam overcame a 10-shot deficit in the final round in L.A—another record. With a 66 capped by a birdie on the last hole of regulation, she passed a faltering Pat Hurst to qualify for a playoff with Mi Hyun Kim, then won with a par on the first hole. The victory, Sorenstam's 27th, also pushed her past Betsy King to the top of the LPGA's alltime money list, with $6,957,044.
Sorenstam's streak stands as the greatest stretch of golf ever played by a woman. After opening the season with two runner-up finishes, she won her first tournament of the year on March 11 in Tucson. The next week in Phoenix she became the first woman to shoot a 59 and went on to shatter the LPGA's 72-hole scoring record, going 27 under. Then at the Nabisco Championship, Sorenstam won the third major of her career. After the tour's two-week spring break, Sorenstam pulled off her miracle in L.A. "I'll never forget the 59, and I'll never forget today, either," she said last Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.
The dramatic win completed Sorenstam's Mongolian reversal on the LPGA's former No. 1 player, Karrie Webb, who won 13 times in 1999 and '00 but is win-less this year. Says Sorenstam, "I watched her win majors, win the money list, and I realized again that that's what I wanted to do. I hate to lose. So she's pushed me, definitely."
Besides leading the tour in scoring average and in greens hit in regulation, Sorenstam has picked up 12 yards in driving distance this year, averaging 255. She has benefited, too, from an improved relationship with her younger sister, Charlotta, 28. A rift between the two developed over Charlotta's relationship with her longtime caddie, Robert Klasson, whom Charlotta married in December 1998. When Charlotta and Klasson separated earlier this year, the sisters grew closer.
Left in Sorenstam's wake is Webb, who did not play in L.A and won't return until May. "If I know Karrie, she's home practicing right now," says Sorenstam. "She's not going to give me a break" Their next major battlefield will be at the May 31-June 3 U.S. Women's Open in Southern Pines, N.C. Sorenstam has won the Open twice, but Webb is the defending champ.
Sorenstam will be in Sacramento this week going for five straight, which would tie Nancy Lopez's record, set in 1978, for the longest winning streak in women's golf. ( Lopez did not win consecutively scheduled tournaments.) Sorenstam says her ultimate goal is Wright's record of 13 victories in a season: "I've got a lot of events left. I want to continue. I don't want to ruin this."
She shouldn't worry—there's nothing to ruin, only more records to be broken.
Green Fee: $100K
The Toughest Ticket in Golf