SI Vault
Darrell Kestner
April 08, 2002
Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam don't radiate charisma, but their Hoganesque work ethic has made them big winners
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April 08, 2002

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Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam don't radiate charisma, but their Hoganesque work ethic has made them big winners

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Vijay Singh (above) and Annika Sorenstam might seem boring, but what they really are is relentlessly efficient, which is the ultimate goal in golf. Ben Hogan would've been thrilled by their respective victories last week at the Houston Open and the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Like Hogan, Singh and Sorenstam are brilliant technicians who have studied the game like a science. Contrary to what their stoicism on the course seems to indicate, Singh and Sorenstam have as many thoughts running through their heads—club selection, wind direction, Did I leave the stove on?—as everyone else, but years of meticulous preparation have taught them to zoom in on the task at hand.

On the 72nd tee of the Nabisco, Sorenstam showed her ability to think clearly in the heat of battle. Leading her playing partner, Liselotte Neumann, by only a stroke, she eschewed the driver in favor of a two-iron. A 526-yard par-5, the 18th is a three-shot hole anyway, and using a shorter club expanded the landing area, which is surrounded by danger. Sorenstam's strategy was sound: When Neumann could only match her routine par, Annika was the tournament's first back-to-back champion.

Singh and Sorenstam devote as much time and energy to planning practice as they do to actually practicing. Sorenstam tracks every shot she takes in every event, enters the data into her computer and generates spreadsheets that help her determine what she needs to work on. Singh is similarly methodical. On the range he beats truckloads of balls, but he does so with amazing precision, making symmetrical lines of divots that look like a giant typewriter keyboard.

To concentrate on the course, you must be disciplined away from it. I learned that the hard way 20 years ago when I lost my PGA Tour card. As a fledgling pro, I never worked out, ate poorly and rarely got enough sleep. In 1983 I drove 15 hours, from my home in Welch, W.Va., to the Memphis Classic only to learn that I wasn't in the field because I had forgotten to commit. That's the kind of scatterbrained error I don't think Vijay or Annika would make.