A Tribute to Annika Sorenstam

I think if you ask the average person who is the best female golfer of all time, many would say Annika Sorenstam.  Annika turned pro in 1993 but her career took off in 1995 when she won her first US Women’s Open.

In 2008, Annika retired at the age of 38 from her professional golf career with an astonishing 89 career wins, 72 LPGA tour victories, and 10 major championships.  To put that in perspective; Tiger (now age 36) has 95 worldwide wins, 71 PGA tour victories, and 14 major championships.  In terms of on course success, Annika is the “Tiger Woods” of women’s golf.  However, unlike her male counterpart she has lived her personal life with complete integrity (no scandals for this great golfer).

Annika  was named the 2012 recipient of the Bob Jones award.  This is an honor bestowed upon by the USGA to a person that epitomizes “distinguished sportsmanship in golf.”  Annika still plays a huge role in golf today with her efforts to grow the sport. She is a very busy lady with her foundation, her golf academy, and her involvement in golf course design (she and Jack Nicklaus have submitted a bid to build the golf course for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.)

The tribute video below is lovely because it is a mix of her personal life (her family speaks), the impact she has had on golf, and her focus on the health of children.

Congratulations to Annika!

Yani Tseng Best Swing in Golf

One of my favorite shows to watch on the Golf Channel is Morning Drive. I found it one morning when I was channel surfing because I was tired of the “same old, same old” on the morning network shows.

The show has a lot of guests from the golf world and last week Annika Sorenstam and Hank Haney were on the show.  When asked who had the best golf swing, I expected Haney to mention a male golfer but to my surprise he said Yani Tseng.  I think Annika was pleasantly surprised because she had a big smile on her face and quickly agreed with Haney.

What stuck with me was why Annika thinks Yani Tseng has the best swing.  It is that the swing is “repeatable under pressure.”  Any golfer can relate to that statement.  Sometimes you listen to golf experts talk about the swing and it is all about swing plain, club head speed, the grip, clearing your hips, etc. and you quickly realize how much goes into a great swing. It can be overwhelming to have all that swirling around in your head.

As an amateur golfer there is nothing more frustrating than starting off the round feeling great because you are swinging well which results in decent shots; then suddenly you hit a bad shot and you can’t figure out what just changed in your swing.  And even though there is nothing big at stake (like a career) you start to feel “under pressure” to fix it.  And often times it is that self-inflicted pressure that makes it even worse.  At that point, golf really becomes a “head game” and you go from feeling great to awful in just a few shots.

I think it is great that Yani Tseng has the ability to repeat her amazing swing under pressure.  For me, I’m just happy when I can repeat my decent swing for a full round of golf.  Of course, then the next thing to worry about is putting.

Waiting on the Ladies

The golf world is all a buzz that the golf season has begun with the start of the PGA tour, the European tour, and the Champions tour (or senior men’s tour). But there is not much talk about the LPGA because the ladies season doesn’t begin for a few more weeks.

In my opinion, I think many golf fans, myself included, don’t pay as much attention to the “official” start of the LPGA (this year begins with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open).  For me, the LPGA starts with the first major, The Kraft Nabisco Championship on March 29.  The other tournaments I pay attention to, at least in terms of marking my calendar, are the other three majors for the women.

It’s not that the women are any less talented than the men but there is less “excitement” in the non-major tournaments.  Actually, the lack of excitement has the same feeling that the PGA tournaments had a few years ago — when Tiger wasn’t playing in many tournaments or playing well; and there were no young guns grabbing anyone’s interest.

The LPGA has suffered since Annika retired and Michelle Wie, who got all the hype as the next “Annika”, could not live up to such unrealistic expectations. There are other great women golfers but the LPGA needs a “big star.”  A “big star” is important to any tour — it’s the Annika and Tiger factor that make the average golf fan turn on the TV or buy a ticket to a tournament. When Tiger announced he would play at the 2012 AT&T Pro Am, ticket sales jumped 35%.

Let’s hope 2012 is the beginning of the turning point for the LPGA because they have some really great talent in Yani Tseng (number one women golfer in the world who many believe could possibly break many of Annika’s records) and now the LPGA has their own young guns getting buzz.  In particular, Lexi Thompson.

Lexi Thompson has been called a “golf prodigy” and the proof was in her play last year when she won the Navistar LPGA Classic at the age of 16 as a non-member of the LPGA. Thompson was the youngest women to win any LPGA event.  After her win she petitioned the LPGA to waive the age requirement (members must be at least 18 years old) to become a member. She was granted full membership.

This just might be the year that I (and many other golf fans) pay attention to more than just the majors for the ladies.