We never tire of the extraordinary. This fall at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M, the brightest in college golf took part in a Q&A with Annika Sorenstam. A highlight of that session was Sorenstam’s recollection of the day she shot 59. No other woman has yet to match Sorenstam’s effort. Her retelling was too good not to share:
March 16, 2001. Obviously I remember the day quite clearly. It was the second day of the Standard Register Ping in Phoenix. I had a morning tee time. Teed off on the back nine. I really didn’t have a great warmup because I was kind of rushing. I somehow came late to the course. I was stuck in traffic, so I was kind of running around. Teed off on the back nine, par-5, dogleg left. I don’t know if any of you have ever played Moon Valley, but it was one of the nicest stops that we had on tour at that time. Obviously because the Solheim family lived just around the corner and they’ve been such supporters of women’s golf. It was nice to be able to play there.
Anyway, back to the golf. I teed off on the par 5, made a birdie on the first and then kind of calmed down a little bit. Birdied the second, and the third and the fourth. I thought well, it’s going to be a good day. I don’t know about you, but I circle the birdies on my card, so I’m feeling a lot of circles. I turned to my caddie and said ‘How many birdies in a row have you seen?’ He said ‘I’ve seen four birdies in a row.’ I said ‘Well I’ve done six before, so I know I can do six.’
So I birdie No. 5; I birdie No. 6; I birdie No. 7; and then I birdie No. 8. And now I have a lot of circles on my card. I’m getting a little nervous. I get to the ninth tee, which is the 18th on the course, and I remember turning to my caddie and said ‘Hey, I’m so nervous I need to make par.’ He said OK.
So I hit the fairway; I hit the green; and I two-putt to make par. I make the turn at 8 under. We walk past the clubhouse to the first tee and I see this leaderboard. I love to look at leaderboards but I said OK, let’s not focus on the leaderboard today. I’ve just got to play my own game. Get to the 10th tee, which is the first hole of the tournament. I turn to my caddie and say ‘I’m ready for some more birdies.’ He said OK.
You know, don’t argue with a player that’s playing well, right?
So I birdie No. 10, 11, 12 and 13. Now I’m 12 under. I look at my scorecard again and now I’m starting to feel … you know when your mind starts to wander … what it means, what am I doing? But the other part of the brain says stay in the moment, focus on the next shot.
So I do that. I make a few pars and we come to 17. It’s a par 5. I hit the green in two and two-putt for birdie. Now I’m 13 under going into the last hole and I’m calculating, and now I realize what’s happening.
You know, funny enough, I was playing with my sister. Of all the players you could play with, of all the 143, I was playing with my sister and Meg Mallon. So it was very nice to be in the same group with Lotta.
So anyway we come down to the 18th … I was so pumped up, I mean literally I felt like I could walk on water. So grab a club less … just a shorter par 4 … hit a 4-wood off the tee. Get it in the middle of the fairway.
We’re looking at the second shot. My caddie said just hit it in the middle of the green. The location was a little on the left. I said ‘No, I’m hitting it at the flag. I’ve been hitting it at the flag all day. I’m not changing my strategy on the last hole.’ I grab a club less than I normally would because I knew it was going to fly a mile. Luckily, it got on the green. I probably had a 9-footer for 58. It rolled a little bit on the left side. I kind of let it slip by about 3 feet. Marked the ball and let them finish. You know when you have a lot of of time to think about a putt? It’s like ‘Oh can I just finish before I start thinking about other things?’
Anyway I remember standing over that putt just telling myself you know if you miss it, it’s a great round, my lowest ever. But if you make it, it’s history. So then I started to shake a little bit more.
Then I said OK this is just a three-footer. It felt like it was a really long three-footer but it was only 3 feet. You’ve made thousands of these … just trust yourself. It rolled in and there we go.
It was just an amazing round and something I’m very, very proud of. I’ve analyzed the round 1,000 times as I’m sure you can imagine. What was different that day compared to the day before or a month later or a year later.
One of the things that came to mind is I never thought about my second putt. Of course it helps to hit every fairway and every green. You have 18 opportunities. But somehow I never thought about the second putt and I couldn’t really figure out why. That’s probably the mystery that I will always think of.
But to me, looking back at it, just knowing that you can do something that you know you think you can do. Because in in my mind, I’ve shot many 54s actually. I highly recommend to all of you, when you start setting your goals, when you have visions, whether it’s a score or just an achievement, live it in your mind or live it in your vision so to speak, for a while. Because all of a sudden when you’re there, it feels like you’ve been there. Because if you’re mind doesn’t believe it, there’s no way your body is going to believe it. So it all starts up here, in your mind.