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Dancing Queen
Sweden's Annika Sorenstam has just completed a season that can arguably be acclaimed as the best ever in the 51 year history of the LPGA.

She won eight times - including one major - became the first to top $2M in one year ($2,105,868), won all the end of year awards and set a new scoring average of 69.42.

And the best of all was shooting 59 in the Standard Register PING in Arizona March.

"That was the highlight by far," confirmed Sorenstam.

"To shoot the lowest ever score by a woman and to break 60 and so do something that very few guys have done what extra special. It's a day and a round that I will never ever forget; one of the best in my life."

The scale of Sorenstam's achievements are made even more impressive when you consider that both Se Ri Pak (five wins including one major) and Karrie Webb (two majors) are also both celebrating memorable years.

Webb, who dominated the Tour for the previous two years and won seven times in 2000, confirmed: "There is no way I am disappointed. Annika has had a fantastic year and I'm very happy for her.

"But I'm also delighted with my year. It might not have been quite a match for 2000, but that was a year that I might never repeat. This time, I retained the US Open and won the McDonald's LPGA Championship to complete a career Grand Slam. How could I be anything else except thrilled to bits?"

It was Sorenstam's own determination and strength of mind that saw her spring back to the top of the charts that she had topped in the mid to late 1990s.

Throughout last winter, she worked like a demon on her putting - which had become a severe Achilles heel - and on her fitness. Confident that the preparation had been perfect, she then came all out guns blazing.

She won four events in a row towards the start of the campaign and set a pace that noone would manage to match.

But perhaps her single-minded ability to set target, and achieve them, came in the final round of the Tour Players' Championship in Florida last Sunday.

She set out knowing that she needed to shoot 65 to set a new scoring average record. Up to that point, the best score over the incredibly tough and windy two-year-old Trump International course had been a first round 67 from Webb.

On another windy day, the 31-year-old opened with an uninspired bogey five, and there was nothing too special in an outward half of two under 34.

But, with her self-belief as strong as ever, she then covered the back nine in an almost unbelievable 31 to achieve the dream and slip the final piece into a jigsaw that painted a picture of a perfect season.

She birdied the 11th and 12th, eagled the 15th from 12 feet and then made two at the 166 yard short 17th - a horror little hole guarded by water - where she struck an eight iron tee shot to almost tap-in range.

Even Sorenstam described the last eight holes as "a miracle. I'm absolutely floating on clouds. I set out knowing what I had to do, and did it. I'm so happy."

So, this week, Annika and her American husband David Esch (upon whom she showers with credit in his role as chief supporter), are back home at Lake Tahoe in Nevada celebrating a job extremely well done.

Of course, both know that will be a tough act to follow. Asked if she can stage a repeat - or maybe even improve? - and she smiles and raises her eyebrows.

"At the moment, I just want to let this season sink in," she says.

"It's been a fun year and all the hard work has paid off. But I want the feeling to continue so, if that's what it takes, then I'll do it again.

"But I am going to have a long break, maybe hardly touch a club until after Christmas. I'll relax, spend time with David and we'll go skiing and snow boarding. I'll also have time to look back and savour everything I've done this year."

So next year on the LPGA Tour is already shaping up as one of huge interest and intrigue.

Can Sorenstam stage an encore? Will Webb work her way back to the top? Or will it be the season when Pak packs an even weightier punch?

From a more parochial point of view: Can any of the Scots beat Catriona Matthew's 2001 record of tenth place and $747,970 on the money list?

And how many from Matthew, Janice Moodie, Mhairi McKay and Kathryn Marshall will make the European team to defend the Solheim Cup at Interlachen in Minnesota in September?

So roll on 2002 - I can hardly wait.


©    22 - NOVEMBER 2001



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