Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Five events into the season, Annika Sorenstam must now find other means of motivation. The opportunity to attain her lofty Grand Slam goal was over before it ever really started.
For the second time in three years, Sorenstam was a nonfactor at the Kraft Nabisco Championship after entering the season with aspirations of winning all four majors. She tied for sixth place this year but never was in contention, failing to break 70 in any of the four rounds.
Sorenstam finished with a 2-under-par 286 total, seven shots behind longtime rival Karrie Webb. It’s the first time Sorenstam has gone winless in three consecutive majors since 2002-03, when she played four without a victory.
“I left a lot of strokes out there,” said Sorenstam, who tied for 13th at Mission Hills in 2004 and won the title last year. “But on the other hand, I fought really hard.”
Sorenstam arrived in the Coachella Valley refreshed after a week of meticulous preparation with coach Henri Reis. Still, something was amiss. She shot an opening-round 71 in the week’s best scoring conditions, putting her nine shots behind Lorena Ochoa, who left everyone in the dust after shooting a major championship-record 62. A blustery Day 2 brought more of the same for Sorenstam, as she recorded four birdies and four bogeys for a 72, placing her 10 behind Ochoa. Her frustration began to mount.
The rough thickened and the greens quickened on the weekend, making it difficult to post a low number and vault into contention. A third-round 73 left Sorenstam nine behind Ochoa. Her final-round 70 clearly was her best ball-striking day, though not many witnessed it, as a majority of the gallery followed the final group of Ochoa, Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis.
Sorenstam did nothing poorly, but did nothing extremely well. She hit a mediocre 64.3 percent of
the fairways (36 of 56) and 63.9 percent of the greens (46 of 72). Putting, which has been Sorenstam’s biggest nemesis throughout her career, bailed her out in several key situations, and her 113 total putts was bettered only by Ochoa’s 110 putts among those in the top 10.
After signing her scorecard Sunday, Sorenstam glanced at the leaderboard and saw that Webb was the only player making a move. Much like the week didn’t go Sorenstam’s way, neither did her analysis of what would transpire over the final three holes.
“They are all crumbling down the stretch,” Sorenstam said. “I’m sure that makes it exciting for the TV watchers. That shows what a major championship can do to you.”
Fifteen minutes later, Webb holed her third shot from 116 yards, and Ochoa and Michelle Wie both
converted birdies on the par-4 16th hole to send the fans into a frenzy.
Sorenstam still will find ways to motivate herself for the next eight months. She’ll work to peak for the remaining three major championships while continuing to pursue Kathy Whitworth’s 88 career victories. Sorenstam has 67 LPGA titles.
“I want to win majors,” she said. “I’ve said that the last five years, and I’m going to continue to say that because I think that keeps me motivated. I’m disappointed about this week because that’s what I live for. But luckily there are three more and I’m going to try to do the best I can.”
But the Grand Slam will have to wait.