Monday, August 4, 2008

Looking Back, Part 1: AnnikaWatch Update

Much has been made of Annika Sorenstam's struggles since her perfect tournament at the Michelob Ultra and subsequent announcement that she would be stepping away from competitive golf at the end of the season. Sure, she hasn't added to her total of 3 wins, has had to settle for 3rd at the LPGA Championship due to bad putting and hasn't had a top 10 since, has finished T24 in the last 2 majors of the season, and as a result is in serious danger of getting passed by a passel of young guns on the money list. So, yeah, that #1 vs. #1A showdown we were hoping to enjoy all season between Annika and Lorena hasn't been happening. She's no longer quite the dominant figure she was at the peak of her career.

But let's keep Annika's recent struggles in perspective. There's a reason, after all, why she's still #2 in the race for Player of the Year, #2 in wins, #2 in scoring average, #2 in percentage of rounds under par, #3 in top 10 percentage, #3 in greens in regulation, #6 in birdies per round, and #6 in putts per green in regulation. That she's maintained this level of excellence after going from being one of the LPGA's longest to solidly in the middle of the pack in driving distance since coming back from her back and neck injuries (she's lost 17 yards off the tee on average since her 2004 season) is a testament to just how strong her overall game still is.

Just ask her playing partners what they think of her game, if you are inclined to doubt the season-long stats. In head-to-head competition, she's only been beaten 28 times and tied 9 times, while winning 62 times. Only 6 players have beaten her twice. If you want to know why she said of Ya Ni Tseng that "I wouldn't be surprised if she was number one in four years," well, just count how many players have beaten her 3 times and are undefeated against her.

Ya Ni Tseng (3-0)
Hee-Won Han (1-0)
Catriona Matthew (1-0)
Amy Hung (1-0)
Maria Hjorth (1-0-1)
Mi Hyun Kim (1-0-1)
Juli Inkster (2-1)
Karrie Webb (2-1-1)
Jeong Jang (2-1-1)

7 have broken even:

Paula Creamer (2-2-1)
Lorena Ochoa (3-3)
Jee Young Lee (1-1)
Lindsey Wright (1-1)
Minea Blomqvist (1-1)
Helen Alfredsson (1-1)
Catrin Nilsmark (1-1)

But mostly playing against her has been an exercise in futility (more so for some than for others):

Morgan Pressel (1-2)
Sun Young Yoo (1-2)
Cristie Kerr (1-3)
Momoko Ueda (1-4-1)
Stacy Prammanasudh (0-1-1)
Lorie Kane (0-1)
Pat Hurst (0-1)
Na Yeon Choi (0-1)
In-Kyung Kim (0-1)
Teresa Lu (0-1)
Young Kim (0-1)
Il Mi Chung (0-1)
Jin Joo Hong (0-1)
Kristy McPherson (0-1)
Meaghan Francella (0-1)
Reilley Rankin (0-1)
Charlotte Mayorkas (0-1)
Erica Blasberg (0-1)
Marisa Baena (0-1)
Michelle Ellis (0-1)
Laura Davies (0-2)
Laura Diaz (0-2)
Christina Kim (0-2)
Ai Miyazato (0-2)
Diana D'Alessio (0-2)
Eva Dahllof (0-2)
Seon Hwa Lee (0-3)
Natalie Gulbis (0-4-1)
Suzann Pettersen (0-4)

If I were a tournament organizer, I'd be pairing Annika with the players in the 1st 2 categories above--especially those 6 undefeated ones. I'm sure she'd love to improve on her winning percentage and shrink the number of players with a winning or even record against her before she hangs up her hat!

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