An Interview With: Annika Sorenstam

RHONDA GLENN: We welcome Annika Sorenstam to our afternoon press conference. Annika won for the first time U.S. Women's Open championship in 1995 at the Broadmoor, then she repeated in 1996. It's been several years since then, but Annika, you have won the first two legs of the Grand Slam. Do you feel any additional pressure trying for the Women's Open this year?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I try not to think about it too much, you know, I am excited to come here and, you know, this is a week I have been looking forward to and, you know, I love the golf course. The way I am going approach this is just another week, another golf tournament. I am I can't deny it, if I am not thinking about it, but I am right now, just want to focus on one thing at a time, and that's this week and tomorrow is the first day, going to just focus on the first shot, then just go from there.

RHONDA GLENN: We'll take questions.

Q. Is the Open the toughest major for you, if so, why?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I think all of the majors are tough. What makes this championship so difficult is obviously the course, the way they set it up. I mean, they put a real premium on driving. We have the course right here, very small greens, the rough is really thick. I mean, they are really trying to give us the greatest challenge they can, and I think they have succeeded so far this week. That's what makes this championship so hard, because it's just the ultimate test.

Q. Laura Davies said that you must have been really pleased as soon as you first saw this course and how it suits you. And secondly, someone said, I forgot who, that 18 was one of the more exciting finishing holes. I am wondering if you can define excitement for a 459-yarder that goes straight up the hill?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I mean, I agree with Laura, I think this is a great golf course, I am excited to be here and play this. I think this is golf course fits me. I think I got a good feel how to play it. I have had two chances to be out there to get to know the course.

Like I said, it puts a premium on the driving and small greens approach shots, I mean, that's really one of my strengths, so I am really looking forward to playing the course in competition.

Regarding to 18, it is a tough hole. You said it was 459. It's uphill all the way from the second shot, and I mean, I can't hit driver there, so I am forced to hit 4-wood off the tee. It makes it really difficult. I think a lot of things that can change on that hole.

Q. Why can't you hit driver?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think it gets too narrow and there's water on the left, and for me to hit driver there's no benefit.

Q. What did you hit for your second?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Today I hit 7-wood, yesterday I hit 5-iron.

Q. Is there a stretch of say two or three holes that you think are going to play a little harder than the rest of the course, like a key stretch?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think every hole has their challenge. The key to playing this golf course is hitting it in the fairway. You got to do it on every hole. I don't care which hole it is. You have got to hit the fairway, try and hit the green. There is so much rough around the greens. I am going to play smart. This is not a course where you can outpower this one. You got to play smart. This is all about placement and every hole has it's challenge.

Q. Do you feel like this is the best you have played for a sustained period in your career? The numbers would seem so to support that.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think well, the consistency is there and I have had a lot of rounds in the 60s the last few months, so score-wise I would say so. I don't know necessarily the way I am striking it and the way I am putting it I am able to put a good score together. If I don't drive it well, then my iron shots have helped me. If I don't necessarily, let's say, leave it far away from the pin, I'm able to have a good feel around the greens. I think all the parts of my game are coming together. That's why I am scoring so well.

Q. Would you talk about your friendly rivalry with Tiger and what might be the latest there? And when you practice together, how often have you done that, where do you do it, what kind of things do you do?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Okay. We have a great friendship. I admire him very, very much. I think we all know he's a tremendous golfer and for me to get a chance to practice with him is just fantastic.

I watch him. I analyze him and I want to learn from him, and he's been very, very helpful. He's shared with me a lot of his secrets, a lot of his thoughts to the game, which has helped me a lot the last few years. Obviously I am very thankful for that.

Q. Do you ever reflect back on it, ten years ago here in Colorado, that it kind of all started for you with your first U.S. Women's Open? And also if you can sort of contrast the Broadmoor and this course? I guess they are very different.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You are right, the courses are very different. Ten years is a long time. I think a lot of things have happened since then. I'd like to say I am a totally different player today than I was at the Broadmoor. At the Broadmoor, I don't want to use the word "fluke," but it was kind of a fluke that I won. I stayed up there, all of a sudden I was leading the tournament and once I knew I was leading, I started to make a lot of mistakes. I was just glad it was only a few more holes to play before I would really screw it up.

I think today I am a little bit more in control, especially my feelings and I think I have a better control of my shots today. So of course I think about the Broadmoor and that's how it kick-started my career, but I think today I am a totally different player.

Q. A lot of people talk about the consistency of your ball-striking. Ben Hogan, probably the most consistent ball-striker of all time, used to say, in any given round there were only maybe two or three shots that turned out exactly the way he intended them to. For you, how is that in any given round how many shots turn out the way you want them to?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: About 100%. (Laughter). Give or take. (Laughs).

Q. Four or five years ago I think it's fair to say that Karrie and Se Ri were your major rivals. Are you surprised that they both slipped back a bit and do you think your dominance has anything do with that as far as getting in their heads?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I am not truly sure. You have to ask the two of them about that.

I just think it's so competitive out here there's many, many great players and I mean, look at Lorena is playing fantastic the last few months. You have got Paula Creamer playing great. I just think the competition is so tough here that you have really got to play your best to have a chance on the weekends. I think that's what is happening. I haven't played with Karrie or Se Ri. I don't know how they are playing lately. The caliber of player and the talents that they have, I am sure they will be up there again.

Q. How much has technology changed your game, because nothing's really seemed to affect it but make it better? Has the technology gotten better? Has it enhanced your game?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think so, technology is a big part of the game today, but I mean everybody has the chance to use the latest and the greatest. So I think it's the same for everyone, but it's definitely part of the game. I am hitting it further now than in a long time and I have been with Callaway for 11 years, and I am so fortunate to be with the greatest company out there that can perform come up with the best clubs. So the last thing I want to do is stay behind and keep hitting Persimmon woods. All of that would be really tough to score with out here.

Q. Are you aware of the historical significance of Cherry Hills? This is basically where Arnold Palmer invented the modern Grand Slam after he won the U.S. Open here in 1960. I wonder if you knew that and if you had thought about that at all coming in her this week?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I do know a little bit about the history of the game and I know that this course has been part of it, and that's why I think it's really kind of neat that we're here this year to play here and for me to come here with my goal in mind, and but I think it's also neat for us ladies to get to play a course like this with so much history.

Me personally I love old traditional golf courses and this is what we have got. To play the U.S. Open, which I think is the greatest golf tournament in the world, to come here on a course like this, it just doesn't get much better than that.

Q. How hard is it keeping separate the fact that you are just trying to play a tournament versus all the history that's on the line, too?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I guess the next four days will show that. I think golf is such a mental game. I am trying to keep my emotions intact, just trying to focus on the things that I know I can control, which are the shots I am going to hit. Right now the way I look at it, my golf ball has no idea where I am at or what it's going to do. I just try and hit the shots that I need to do. Not to think too much about the consequences, not to think too much ahead of myself. I have got to stay in the present and do what I have got to do. Enough talking really, now it's time to play.

Q. Back on the history thing, I wonder if you have read anything about Bobby Jones and some of his thoughts going through the Grand Slam. There have been some books in recent years, one in particular this year that talked about how he sort of struggled with the whole thing, the nerves. Have you read any of that or do you know?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I don't think I want to read it. (Laughs).

Q. A lot of people say that you are in player's heads, but several of them have said that they'd like to get inside your head and see what you are thinking as you are playing and dealing with all this. Is that something you enjoy cultivating or --

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I mean, when you set a goal the way I did, this is to be expected. This is a great challenge for me and this is like I said, a true test for me to see if I can handle it.

I don't really know if anybody wants to get in my head and try and figure out what I am really thinking, but you know, this is just a great challenge for me. This is the challenge I have been looking for and it's all about controlling your emotions and your shots out there. I am really looking forward to the challenge.

Q. I know at Colonial you talked about you went there because you wanted to get better. How much in a situation like this, where so much of you is on the microscope, how much playing there helped in that you were under so much focus for so long, and then you went through those two rounds, was just incredible publicity?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I definitely think Colonial is going to play a big part in this. The preparation and obviously being under the microscope is something that I have learned from and that I have taken notes from and, you know, I am going to need it all. I am going to need all the experience I have gotten the last ten, twelve years on tour you know, but that's why I do this. That's when they say, you know, when you get older, I don't know if you get smarter, but you get more experienced, and I am going to need all this.

So the Colonial is really going to play a big part in this.

Q. You have talked a lot about control. Do you think there are some things in this process this week, if it goes well possibly the next one, that might be out of your control, and if so, does that concern you?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, there's some things, like we talked about, that I can control and certain things I can't. One of the things is the other players. I can't control how they are going to play. All I can do right now is to go play the best I can. I want to go out there and make good decisions. I want to make sure, firm decisions and I need to play smart and I just got to let it happen. If I do all that, then I will tell you on Sunday that I am happy, and if that's good enough or not, we'll find out.

RHONDA GLENN: What score would satisfy you this week? 284 would be par.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: That's probably a good score. Maybe a few better than that I will probably be happy.

Q. Going back even further than the Colonial, 1997 Pumpkin Ridge, did you put a lot of pressure on yourself?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I put a lot of pressure on myself at Pumpkin Ridge, you know. Again, to have an opportunity to do something nobody has done and, you know, I try separate myself from everything, but it was just really hard. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I tried really hard. I was trying to force things and it just didn't happen. So you learn from those times. When I walked away from there I figured, what did I learn from this, and I couldn't figure it out.

Now when I sit here all these things I have done the last ten, twelve years it's really helped.

Q. Last time you were here there was about a foot of snow on the ground, and you couldn't see the course at all. Having come out and had the two practice rounds, do you have someone that scouts for you or did you read anything about the course and its difficulty?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I have a great caddie, and he's been walking the course, let's see, twice before I even saw it, so that's very helpful. But for me to have two practice rounds is really all I need. I think I feel very familiar with the golf course. I have a good game plan, so sometimes I think when you overprepare, that can just hurt you because I have learned that the hard way. This is the best preparation I could have asked for. I am going to be ready tomorrow.

Q. You have been so upfront about this being a goal of yours, which is an approach a lot of people don't dare to take to say, I am going after this thing. Has that been a help for you or a hindrance to you, the fact that you have been so open about wanting to win the Grand Slam, kind of putting that onus on yourself?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: First of all, I mean, I am only halfway. I want to say that these next two are going to be the toughest two. So having said that, I am just on my way, but you know, for me to be open about my goals is just that's just the way I am. I think I'd rather just tell people, this is my goal and this is what I am going to do. I have nothing to hide about my goals. This is exciting. Now the goals are in the back of my mind now I am looking forward. It's not that I am home and thinking about these goals. I know what I want to do. Now it's time to play.

Q. Tom Meeks talked about the 10% altitude factor. Do you think that two days is enough time to really get in tune with your club selection and getting used to the altitude?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think so. I hope so, yeah. I just came from Tahoe, where it's the same elevation changes, so I have had plenty of practice. I don't think that's going to be a factor.

Q. Not too long ago you talked about looking more towards the end of your career and then just recently you just signed an extension with Callaway. What exactly is your plan between now and when that extension goes?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: My exact plan...

Q. You said you were upfront with your goals so I thought I'd...(laughter).

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Obviously I am going to play a little longer. That's for sure. And especially now I am totally enjoying myself. I have reached a new level in my golf game where I am excited about and I just don't want to let that go. I want to continue to play on this level for a while and when it comes to Calloway, we have a lot of plans ahead. It's not necessarily only on the golf course, there's a lot of things we can do off the golf course, whether I compete full-time or not.

For me it's just a privilege to be with Calloway and extend my relationship with them.

Q. Career goals, is it important for you to by the end of your career be regarded as the greatest player of all time? There are some people who think you are there now and there are some people who think maybe Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth are still in the equation?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: My goals have changed a little bit because when I came out on tour, because when I came out on tour, I didn't think I would be able to win a single tournament, now here I am 62 later.

My overall goal is, I want to be recognized as somebody who really loved the game, and wasn't afraid of a challenge, and that's really what is most important to me.

I believe if you play well, victories will come and so forth. So I just want to focus on what I enjoy and pushing myself to be the best I can be.

End of FastScripts.

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