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AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP


July 17, 2014


Mark Rypien

Annika Sorenstam


STATELINE, NEVADA

THE MODERATOR:  Annika, no introduction is necessary, but we're going to give this woman one anyway.  LPGA Hall of Famer; 89 tournament victories; 10 major championships.  She's won over $22million.  Annika, you've been here for a few days now.  How would you say this event compares to an LPGA event?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Well, right now this is the biggest thing I'm going to play in since I am a retired LPGA player.  I would just say I'm very excited to be here, and when they asked me to play a few months ago, I was like, wow, what a fun thing to participate in.
The last few years I've been on the beach with friends on a boat.  So now I get to walk on the grass.  So kind of dust off some of my rust on the golf clubs.  So I'm excited to be here.
THE MODERATOR:  We know when you were first asked, your husband had mentioned:  I doubt that she wants to play.  And then he asked you and about five minutes later we had a positive response.  Is that accurate?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Yeah, it's very accurate.  I don't think he thought I would play.  But to me, you know, this is not an official LPGA tournament.  We play Stableford, and we spend the summer up here.  I've been coming here since'95.  And I've been building a home at Incline.  So I feel like this is really our second home.
And my kids are now‑‑ they haven't really seen me play.¬† And of course the responsibility I have to some of my sponsors, I thought why not come out here and have some fun, foremost.¬† And that's really how I approach it.
THE MODERATOR:¬† You are obviously the overwhelming favorite.¬† Do you feel any‑‑ at least according to the sports book you are.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Okay.
THE MODERATOR:  Do you have any extra pressure there?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I try not to think about it.  I haven't competed.  So I am going to be a little rusty as far as just putting a good score together and get in that tournament mode.  But I am a competitor.  So I know that the juices will flow once I get inside the ropes.
Some things just never change.  We'll see.  I do have a lot of respect for the guys who are here.  I mean, they're true athletes, and it makes me think about what sport would I go play and be as good as they are here.  There's probably not a lot of sports I can do it in.
So you get a lot of respect from them.  I know they can hit the ball a long ways.  I'm just going to focus on my own game.  I might be hitting first into the greens but hopefully I put the pressure on them and hit it the closest.
Like I said, I'm really looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR:  How would a win here affect you?  What would it mean to win at this event?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:¬† You know what, I haven't really thought about it.¬† I try not to think too far ahead.¬† And I don't know, I just‑‑ certainly it's not going to change my mind and sign up for an LPGA event next week if that's what you were thinking.
I don't know.  I don't know if I will get invited back so maybe I need to be a little cautious.  (Laughter).  But we'll just take it as it comes.  It's a point system.  I think anything can happen.
We've gone through a lot of scenarios in our mind.  I do know I need to make a lot of birdies and stay away from doubles.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  You mentioned your residency up at Incline.  I'm curious how often you've played this course being so close and what your thoughts are and how it matches your game?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  You would think being up here since'95 that this would be a regular visit for me.  It's not been a regular visit.  I've only played nine holes and I think that was in 2004.
I came out here just as a spectator, really, and happened to have my clubs in the trunk and they asked me to come and play nine holes.  I said sure, I'll play nine holes.
When I was here last week, that was the first time that I really played the golf course.  Like I said, I've been a spectator in the past because we do spend the summers up here.  But I would also add, when I come to Incline, I really don't play golf.  I go to the lake like everybody else.  And golf would be pretty much the last thing on my mind.
This was a way for me to recharge my batteries when I was on TOUR.  And when I'm not on TOUR I just hang out with the kids and do other things.  So I'm not as familiar with the golf courses in the area as you might think I would be.

Q.  Every great athlete has a competitive edge.  When they retire, they have to fill it somehow.  How have you filled that competitive edge; and is it good to get back here and kind of have that edge again?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I think once you're a competitor you're always a competitor.  Growing up I was competitive in cards and downhill skiing.  I competed in tennis for years.  Yes, I'm extremely competitive.  So nowadays it's more being in the business that we run.  I want to be successful with the golf academy that I have and the clothing line and my foundation.  I want to be successful there.
So I would say that I'm probably working harder today than I did then.  And then trying to juggle it with being a mom with two little kids.  So I do enjoy it.  And I think that's the reason I don't miss competitive golf.  I'm so busy.  I have other things on my mind and other things I enjoy.  If I didn't have that, it might be a different story.

Q.  I think Annika is being a little modest.  I remember when she came out, played nine holes with Jordan, Trump, Ahmad Rashad, and had never seen the back nine at Edgewood.  You played the blue tees with those guys and shot a 3 under 33 sight unseen.  I remember that.  I remember back then asking you if you would play in this event and you asked if you could play from the ladies tees.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I do remember we had some fun bets.  Those guys like to bet.  So, yeah.

Q.  When you're coming back from a long layoff, what takes longer to come around?  Short game?  Middle irons?  Driving off the tee?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I think timing, number one.  I've lost some distance since I played.  And that's never fun, when you hit it shorter and then you try to hit it harder; when you hit it harder, then you start hitting it more sideways.  Now it's not as much fun.  Every part of the game is the little feel, the little extra touch around the greens and the consistency is not there.
So took me a while since I stepped away to really want to go out and play and accept something else than a 59.  And now I do and now I don't get too upset.  I realize I get home, my kids, they really don't care what I shot.
So it put things in perspective.¬† And I'm glad I have that because otherwise I think it would be very hard to‑‑ because it's such a great game and I want to continue to enjoy the game, but just understand if you don't play, you don't shoot as low.¬† So that's really my attitude this week.
I'm not going to go out there and goof around by any means.  Like I said, I'm serious.  I have been practicing for two months.  I'm going to admit to that.  I've taken some lessons from my coach.  Because I am competitive and I want to make sure that at least I get it out there a little bit longer than I did about four months ago.

Q.  What would it mean to you to become the first woman to win this tournament?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Well, of course, to be honest, I haven't looked at who has won here in the past.  I'm familiar with some of the names.  Yeah, I guess that would be pretty special to be the first woman to do that, to be one of the only women to play in this event is kind of fun.  And I would rank it up there.
I would be very proud of my achievement for sure.  But, like I said, it's not going to change my mind of thinking, wow, now I'm ready for the LPGA and the U.S. Open, I can tell you that.  There really is a long ways from where I am to being ready to tee it up against the ladies again.

Q.  What were some of the pros and cons you weighed when you got the invitation?  Why was your husband so surprised you agreed to the invitation?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:¬† Because number one is I don't play.¬† This is not just a little charity event.¬† I mean, this is serious‑‑ this has been going on for 20 something years.¬† And it's on NBC and people are going to judge me how I play.
So that's maybe not the situation I want to be in a way, but I'm content with that.  I think people know that I run a business and I'm a mom of two and I'm not here to prove a comeback by any means.
I think if that would be the only thing, if people thought that this is the beginning and then they say what happened to her, she was good six years ago and now she's a little different player.
So I am the golfer here.  I'm not the celebrity.  I am coming out here to just enjoy the game, get to catch up with friends and other athletes that I know throughout the years and play the game that I really love.

Q.  Tell us about your caddie this week.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Yes, my caddie is actually none other than my husband Mike McGee.  He only caddies in the fun events.  He's lucky he gets to choose.  But he comes from a golfing family, so he knows a lot about golf.
We get along quite well on the golf course, at least for now.  (Laughter).  Yeah, just keeping track of the yardages and making sure I'm happy out there.

Q.  Does he get the typical 10 percent?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  We haven't thought about it.  Maybe we need to negotiate.  I am his boss in the office.  But I think that would be fair.

Q.  When you recharge your batteries in the winter, are you on the slopes primarily?  And do your kids ski?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I love to ski.  I grew up skiing in Sweden.  That's really what we do, and it's one of my favorite sports.  I used to do it a little bit when I played.  I would sneak away tell my sponsors I come to Incline and ski a few weeks.
We have introduced both our kids to skiing.¬† Ava is in her second season. ¬†She loves it.¬† And our son, who is three, we just introduced him.¬† So they're Florida kids.¬† They're used to Crocs and T‑shirts.¬† You can imagine the first few days putting on layers, it wasn't that easy.
But the goal is to have everybody in the family ski together.  Just like it would be great to have the whole family play together, golf.

Q.  How many mountains in the Tahoe area have you skid?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I've been to a few through the years.  So much to choose from here.  I don't go anywhere else to ski other than in this area.

Q.  Annika, can you give me some perspective on all of the various businesses you have going now?  Academy, wines, aren't you doing a Sirius XM show now?  Give me some idea of everything you're doing.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Like I say, I am busy.  People think when you step away you'll be hanging out and just relaxing.  The Annika Academy has been open for six years.  Golf school in Orlando, Florida.  As a matter of fact, they're on the road this week on the other side of the lake at Old Greenwood.  That's where I share my passion for golf and fitness.  Clothing with Cutter and Buck.  Some in the pro shop here, women's golf line.
MARK RYPIEN:  My daughter is wearing one of her sweaters this week.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Thank you for the support.  And of course Annika Foundation, which is really close to the heart as we have six junior golf tournaments around the world and just providing opportunities for young aspiring golfers so I can share the passion there, and I mentor some of the players.
The wine, we have sold out on the wine.  We have a thirsty family.  But the XM radio show is just something fun that I started with Ron Sirak doing six episodes for now.  Just talking golf, women's golf especially, and he knows all the stats and then I come in from a player's perspective.
So it's been fun to still be involved with the game one way or another with the different partners I have.  It's a good thing.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Mark Rypien has just joined us.¬† We were talking about first at this tournament, the possibility of Annika being the first woman to win.¬† Mark was the inaugural winner of this event in 1990 and he almost pulled it out of his hat last year, got in the playoff.¬† What is it like to be back here in year‑‑ this is what 23, 24 years in this event.
MARK RYPIEN:  You're never a loser coming back here.  You play golf here, you bring your family out here, and you get an opportunity to meet special people.  I also owe Annika one because she beat me in skiing about three months ago in Vail in the Vail Ski Classic.
She gave me a five second head start and still beat me.¬† So if she can do it in golf this week, give me about a 20‑point head start‑‑ obviously exciting to have her here.¬† The guys will have to play at our best level just to be competitive.¬† And she's going to bring a new dynamic of people who follow her around, and she's been a great representative of golf over the years.
And so it's fun to have her here.  I know she's got kids and a lot of other things going on, as you see her businesses and all that, but the one thing that hasn't changed is her golf swing, and it's beautiful to watch.  And I snuck out a few times today, when I was not hitting my ball myself, and looked over and watched it.  It's a beautiful thing.
So we'll have to play our best, there's no doubt about it, to be competitive with her.  But we're going to give it our best shot, though.

Q.  Seems like over the years your game has gotten better, too.  Remember you won it the first year, but your game is a lot better, stronger than it is?
MARK RYPIEN:¬† She sells wine.¬† She knows what wine is.¬† Supposedly it gets better with age.¬† I'm thinking that's the case with my golf game.¬† I know more about the game‑‑ years ago when I didn't know anything about it, I found a way to get it in the hole.¬† Now I know so much‑‑ not so much, but a lot more about golf, thinking about all the angles, all the things that come into play.
Still the bottom line is find a way to manage to make par.  Par is your friend.  And go on from there.  So it's just a great game.  She's a great ambassador for golf worldwide this week.  She's going to be a great ambassador for our event here and for years to come.
And so we welcome the fact that she's going to be out here and competing against us and look forward to teeing it up with her.

Q.  What's the talk among the favorites like you who have been in the hunt over the years?  Now you've got someone obviously that this was her profession for so many years.
MARK RYPIEN:  The talk is they moved up the purse second place to 75,000.  It's kind of like we're playing for that now.  (Laughter).  We might as well kind of write the check to her already and we'll just kind of compete for a little bigger second place purse.
I was hoping they'd do it the last two years when I finished second but that wasn't the case.¬† But anyways, I think it's just really‑‑ I mean, for all of us, and that's the great thing about golf, you don't play well, it shows.¬† And we know that if she plays not her best and we play our very best, we have an opportunity to‑‑ I'm going to say Mike Eruzione's 1980 thing will pale in comparison to someone beating her on the golf course this week.

Q.  For both of you, if the weather is like this throughout the weekend, how do you think it will impact your game?
MARK RYPIEN:  We'll be inside here having a few cocktails.  (Laughter).  Some guys it might help their game.  (Laughter).
She's probably more apt to answer that question.  She's played in more tournaments and intermittent weather things like that than I have.  We don't normally ever see this here.  So this is kind of an anomaly for us in Tahoe.
But if we get off to an early start like we have and get TV done before 3:00, it's 3:00 right now, hopefully we'll get it all in.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  There's really nothing you can do.  I remember playing on TOUR; and early in my career, you always kind of lose your rhythm and you start thinking too much.  But as you get a little older, more mature, you realize that it's the same for everybody.  Go and relax.  I don't know if I had any cocktails.
But I know I'm in a different phase of my life, but still you just gotta not worry about it and hopefully we will not have this type of weather.  This is unusual.  You guys are from here.  You know it.  But a little rain in the air is always a good thing.  But hopefully it comes later and might soften up the greens a little bit.  I don't know if you like that.
MARK RYPIEN:  A real golfer, greens, good or bad.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Just take one more club.
MARK RYPIEN:  Already got a tip.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you both.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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