2003: Our Opinion - Go get ’em, Annika

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Annika Sorenstam has decided to test her game against PGA Tour professionals in Fort Worth, Texas, this spring, at the same famed Colonial course where Ben Hogan, one of the most eminent shotmakers the game has ever met, once ruled.

We applaud Sorenstam. With all that she has accomplished in such a relatively short time, she easily could rest upon her laurels. Consider that at the completion of this season, her 10th on the LPGA, she already will have met all the criteria to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame.

She’ll be all of 33 years old.

But it is Sorenstam’s inner drive to be a quintessential champion that keeps her pushing endlessly in her quest to become a better player. The great ones – Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez and others such as Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong or Wayne Gretzky in other sports – have that same extra ingredient that makes them so special.

The past few years Sorenstam has embarked on an incredible workout regimen to fine-tune her body and enhance her game. She has evolved into one of the longest hitters on the LPGA, her 265-yard average a bit misleading, as she was hitting the ball farther than that by the end of 2002.

Why the willingness to travel the extra mile?

“To be the best out here,” Sorenstam said in an interview with Golfweek in December, “you have to do things that nobody else is doing.”

Sure, the publicity Sorenstam will receive at Colonial will be unlike anything she has experienced in her career, despite winning 13 times around the globe in 2002. Yet to know Sorenstam is to realize this isn’t a move driven by sheer publicity. She is the very best female player of our time – perhaps of all time – wishing to test herself at a higher level.

Why should she not have that chance?

As former U.S. Women’s Open champion Meg Mallon noted, Woods likely would test himself at a higher level if he had such an opportunity. He doesn’t. He already competes on the best golf tour in the world. Sorenstam has an opportunity Woods does not. She’ll roll the dice and take her best shot.

In a spring that was destined to be dominated by talk of Martha Burk’s protests and Augusta National’s membership policies, this will be a welcomed respite, not to mention terrific debate fodder for the grill room. Thanks to Woods, Ernie Els and Sorenstam, golf is a hot topic.

Sorenstam insists that when she walks inside the ropes at Colonial Country Club May 22, she will be doing so alone. This is her journey. She also has been around long enough to know better. There will be many people along for every shot, their hopes resting with her every swing. That’s a lot of weight. A lot of pressure to put squarely on one’s shoulders.

Could she fail? Sure. But she’s willing to take that chance. That in itself is noble.

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