Annika Sorenstam, Golf's Quiet Superstar

Sweden's Annika Sorenstam is the premier female golfer of her generation. She's in Williamsburg, Va., this week seeking to win her sixth consecutive pro tournament. Columnist Christine Brennan of USA Today discusses Sorenstam's prospects.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Annika Sorenstam is trying to reinforce her position as the most dominant woman golfer of her generation. She's attempting to win a sixth consecutive pro tournament. No woman has done that before. Annika Sorenstam's quest begins today at a tournament in Williamsburg, Virginia. USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan joins me now.

Good morning.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (USA Today): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Christine, talk to us about this. What is the significance of what Annika Sorenstam is trying to do?

Ms. BRENNAN: It's a pretty big deal, Renee. In 1978, Nancy Lopez won five in a row. It was her rookie year. It was really quite a splash in the American sports scene. But it was a different time for women athletes. Competition is so much tougher now--the training, the amount of women playing sports and playing golf. So what Annika Sorenstam is trying to do to win her sixth in a row is extraordinary.

As far as the history in golf, for men and women, it's also something that really has been done very rarely. Byron Nelson is known for winning 11 in a row back in 1945, but since then, Ben Hogan won six in a row in 1948, Tiger Woods won six in a row in '99 and 2000, over two seasons. And so what Annika Sorenstam is trying to do is only become the third golfer to win six in a row as a professional since World War II.

MONTAGNE: Isn't Annika Sorenstam the one who created such a stir two years ago by playing in a PGA Tour event?

Ms. BRENNAN: You're right, Renee, she is. That was the Colonial in May of 2003. That was an amazing time for her and for women's golf. The cable news networks were actually keeping track of her score as if it was the Dow or the Standard & Poors index. She missed the cut, but the crowds were swelling in Ft. Worth in a way that I had never seen for women athletes; little girls and their dads coming out to watch. And I think that that is one of the reasons why we know Annika so well and probably why many people, if they think about this record, would say, `Oh, doesn't she already have this, this, you know, five, six in a row?' just because she's done so much in the women's game.

MONTAGNE: But then why isn't she, in a way, not better-known?

Ms. BRENNAN: I think there's a little Greta Garbo in Annika Sorenstam. She is from Sweden and she likes her privacy. She has never been one to grab for the spotlight or for attention. She's calm, she's quiet. That's perfect for the game of golf. It's a wonderful demeanor and it's why she's so great. She's won over $16 million; number one in career earnings on the LPGA Tour. She's 34 years old. She's been around a while and I think she enjoys the pace at which she plays and the privacy she can keep, and then of course coming out and playing and then going back to a more private world. She's getting a divorce right now, so there are a lot of things in her life that she enjoys keeping out of the news, and while that's great for her, it's not necessarily great for women's sports, because Nancy Lopez was much more the type of athlete, a headline-grabbing kind of athlete. Annika Sorenstam, while her play does that, she does not seek that with her personality.

MONTAGNE: Well, does it come down, though, in the end, to her winning, that is, can she keep winning, and will that be good enough?

Ms. BRENNAN: I certainly think so. I mean, Annika Sorenstam, whatever she does this weekend, and whether she does break the record, get six or not, I think the reality is for her that she's going to try to win the women's Grand Slam. There's no doubt that she's been the greatest golfer for the last 10 years on the LPGA Tour, and if she has a renewed fire inside to keep winning and be competitive, there's every chance that she could win the Grand Slam, which would be an enormous achievement.

MONTAGNE: Christine Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today.

Thanks very much, Christine.

Ms. BRENNAN: Thank you, Renee.

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