Annika sorenstam finished yet another dominant season by shooting a 13-under-par 275 and beating Cristie Kerr in a brief playoff on Sunday at the ADT Championship, the LPGA's season-ending event at opulent Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. Kerr played brilliantly for four rounds, but on the first extra hole she hit her approach shot into the pond guarding the 18th green, allowing Sorenstam to win with an anticlimactic bogey.
Sorenstam's year-end numbers are, as usual, amazing: ten wins, eight in LPGA events; a fourth season with $2 million--plus in earnings (she's still the only woman to crack $2M); only two rounds over par out of 66; and a sizzling 68.70 scoring average. Sorenstam also claimed a seventh money title, a seventh Player of the Year award and her seventh major.
What makes Sorenstam's 2004 as impressive as her 11-win 2002 is that she accomplished all of the above in only 18 LPGA tournaments (she averaged 22.7 starts from 1997 through 2002) and after greatly reducing her practice time.
Look for a similar schedule next year, but after that she says she'll continue playing only as long as she's motivated. Does that sound like an exit strategy? At 34 and determined to play less, Sorenstam is talking more and more about life outside the game.
If she plays beyond 2005, Sorenstam will have to alter her schedule to comply with a new rule that requires players to enter each LPGA tournament at least once every four years. Here's a clue as to her thinking about the future: Last week, when someone said that she could play wherever she wanted for another year and then retire, she laughed and said, "That's a good plan."
Not everyone is buying the retirement talk. "Betsy King has been retiring for 25 years," says fellow pro Meg Mallon. "It's funny when golfers say that. When you start thinking about what else you can do, you realize there's nothing better than what we do."
Early retirement would also mean that Sorenstam would have no shot at the biggest record of them all--Kathy Whitworth's 88 victories. Sorenstam has 56. "I'm still far from it," she says. "I wonder if I can continue on this pace. Eighty-eight sounds so impossible."
We disagree. For a woman who has already achieved so much--shooting a 59, playing in a PGA Tour event, taking on three guys in the Skins Game--nothing is impossible. --Gary Van Sickle
Tiger Woods must've been smoking something. No way the PGA of America ever rewards pay-for-play ringleader Mark O'Meara with a Ryder Cup captaincy.
Up & Down
Received a hefty appearance fee to beat up on Japanese tour players and win another $388,000.
Arnold Palmer (left) led a star-studded over-40 team to a win at the UBS Cup.
The 2005 schedule is longer, more lucrative and more international.
While our best players sat out, Scott Verplank (above) and Bob Tway tied for seventh at the World Cup.
Rest of the World
Gary Player (right) and his global team lost a fourth straight UBS Cup.
The 2005 schedule includes only 28 events, the least since 1986.
DARREN CARROLL (SORENSTAM)
SMELLING THE ROSES
In 18 LPGA starts, Sorenstam never finished worse than 13th.
ROBERT BECK (WOODS)
ROB TRINGALI/SPORTSCHROME (VERPLANK)
DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES (PALMER)
WARREN LITTLE/GETTY IMAGES (PLAYER)