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June 26, 2007
SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA
RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, we have only one three-time champion in our field, and that's Ms. Annika Sorenstam, going for our fourth title, which would, by the way, tie the record of Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls.
Annika looks great. We're so pleased to have her here. She has not yet played the golf course, so we're not able to ask her at this time what she thinks of the changes. But the main thing is let's talk about your health and its current state, how do you feel?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I feel good. I feel good, as a matter of fact. I'm happy to be back. This is my third official tournament coming back. I did play a skins game about ten days ago in Mexico. I feel great.
My neck is healing very nicely and I'm starting to work out again. I've been pain-free for I think 7 to 8 weeks, so life is good.
RHONDA GLENN: Are you able to go at the ball full tilt?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yes, I am. There are times I'm a little cautious, but the doctor has told me not to be. So I think, mentally, I have to relax and release the club a little bit. But I feel great. I've stepped up some of my -- the practice sessions I have and I'm able to hit a lot of balls. So I really have no excuses.
RHONDA GLENN: Having won here in 1996, the second of your two Women's Open Championships at that time. I know you have good feelings about this course, but now you're coming on to what may be a completely different golf course, how did you prepare for that.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Really what I've done is just to work on my game. My coach, Henri, came to Orlando last week, and I've been working on my swing. And that's the first time since my injury. And just trying to find the rhythm again, just trying to get back to basics.
I'm more concerned about playing my game. I know that I will be able to adapt to the golf course. I chipped and putted a lot yesterday, got a good feel for the greens. I will play the course twice before Thursday. I'm just on the right track. I think there's plenty of time to get to know the course again, even though there have been some changes. I feel good about my game. If I can hit it where my caddie tells me I'm not so worried.
Q. Having won last year, does it give an extra boost to your game, coming in as defending champion, are you riding a wave of success or does your injury sort of negate all that?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I would say that I have confidence just being inside the ropes. That's where I like to be, that's where I think I belong. I have confidence to go ahead and play again, just knowing that I'm healthy, and knowing that my game is coming all around.
Of course, it's great to be the defending champion. This tournament has always meant the most to me. I'm excited to be here. This is an event that I always get geared up for. It's a tournament that the adrenalin pumps a little bit more.
Like I said, I'm happy to be here and happy to be competing and being part of it.
Q. When will you reclaim the No. 1 position again?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I think I have to start playing. I just started a few weeks ago. So give me some time.
Q. Sort of along the same lines, but worded a little differently, how much motivation is there for you to get back to No. 1 and is it at all irritating, if that's the right word, to see somebody else in a position that's been yours for so long?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I would say it's not irritating. I have a lot of respect for Lorena, I think she's a fantastic player. She deserves to be No. 1. She's playing consistent every week. She's playing as good as anybody can play. My hat is off to her.
There's no feeling of irritation. There's no feeling of -- what can you say, when you can't play and you're not feeling a hundred percent, there's nothing you can do about it.
My priority right now is to get back to a hundred percent. I want to be able to play full time and really compete at the level I know how. That's my short-term goals. We'll see what happens after that. If I'm not competitive and if I'm not performing well, then I'll probably be irritated at myself, nobody else.
Q. How would you assess the competition from the standpoint of back in say '99 through '02 it was Karrie and Se Ri, two Hall of Famers, now you're looking at Lorena and Suzanne who has played marvelously in the majors this year. How would you compare those two groups of competition?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think obviously a few years later you're going to see different faces. I think overall women's golf is as strong as it's ever been. Even though Karrie was young and Se Ri was young and I was young, you know, it just changes.
But I think it's good for the game. We are definitely seeing an international Tour, it's been continuing to grow all around the world. It's healthy. There are so many young players knocking on the door, Paula Creamer is playing so well, I can't even name them all. I think it's great for the game. And it is competitive. That's the way it should be. I think it's a fun time to be part of the LPGA.
Q. Do you feel a greater challenge now than ever before and why or why not?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think my challenges are that I have not been a hundred percent for a while and it's been tough to get motivated. Those are my challenges. I'm looking forward to getting my motivation back. I'm excited to be a hundred percent again, so I can be up there and get back to it.
It just hasn't been that way the last few months and maybe part of last year. I'm competitive, but also when it comes to my game and so forth I have to think about me, get back to where I can compete. Then I start looking around and see who is my fierce competitor, who is so and so. I just don't do that these days. I focus on getting back to Tour and a hundred percent.
Q. It's been a few years ago, but do you remember the golf course changing fairly significantly between '96 and 2001, from the time you won to the '01 Open? Although you hadn't played the course, what are you hearing about the changes that have been made?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: My caddie told me the course is longer this year. He said it was beautiful, which I remember it was a few years ago, as well. But I think the length was the biggest change that he could tell me.
I'm looking forward to going out there. Everybody is saying great things about the course. I loved the course the first time I played it here. It's a treat to play it and especially in a championship like this.
Q. Obviously you won in '96, Karrie won in 2001. I don't think anybody would argue you are the best two women golfers of your generation. Are you surprised that you two haven't gone head-to-head maybe on a big Sunday at the Open in all these years? There's a famous Nicklaus/Watson Duel in the Sun, when two great players have gone head-to-head. Are you surprised you and Karrie haven't done that more often?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I never thought about that and maybe that is a surprise. But again there are some great players out here, and in a Major Championship it seems like anything can happen. To me it seems like if I would have a good week she might not. And then I might not have a good week and she does.
It just seems to be changing back and forth a little bit. And Se Ri has won several championships, Juli has won several, too. There's so many players out there, just because it's a Major there's no guarantee that the top players will go head-to-head on a Sunday.
I know it would be good for TV and for a good show, but as a competitor, as a player, you really don't think about those things. There's so much on stake this week that you're trying to stay calm and hit one shot at a time. You can't worry about who is on the leaderboard and who is not.
Q. Do you think the media has made too much of the little rift between you and Michelle Wie?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I mean, I really don't think there is much, to be honest. I just voiced my opinion a few weeks ago. But I think I have said what I wanted said and I'm over it and I'm here and I'm playing and that's really what matters to me.
Q. Just to follow that up, has there been any contact from their camp to your camp? Your people to their people? You to her? And if not, are you surprised there hasn't been, since your comments?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: There's been no contact. I've had two weeks off and I think she has, too. No, there's been no contact.
Q. Are you surprised? You said some fairly strong things then. Should they have contacted you?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I'm not really sure how they deal with these type of things. All I can say is I said what I wanted to say and I stand for what I say and I still feel that way.
Q. Fans were willing to stand in line for an hour yesterday to get your autograph. Do you feel that responsibility to be the face or one of the faces for the Tour and to grow the Tour and keep it popular?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It's an honor that they did that. It was hot yesterday and I saw the line and it was quite long. I'm flattered they would come out on a Monday to want my autograph. As long as people do that that's wonderful. Obviously, I would love to do my part and be the face for the LPGA as much as I can. I think it's important with giving back to the game, giving back to tournaments like this. So for me it's a great honor and I'm flattered.
Q. Do you remember the fuss here six years ago when Morgan played, just turning 13?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You mean in Portland?
Q. No, it was here, actually.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It was here? I guess I don't remember (laughter).
Q. Karrie mentioned it as being -- having met Morgan that week, and thinking, wow, how often do you see a 13 year old in a U.S. Women's Open. And you mentioned Pumpkin Ridge when there were at least two that week. And we have one that's 12 this week. And it seems like we haven't played a Women's Open since then without somebody in junior high or early high school years playing. Any thoughts on that and why do you think that is?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I haven't really thought about it. I would guess the reason why we're seeing some new faces is because in an Open qualifying you have 18 or 36 holes, I believe, where you have a chance to get in. There's a lot more spots available than regular weeks.
The players are getting younger and they're stronger at an earlier age, so I think that's why we see it. Other than that I haven't given that much thought to it. I think it's healthy to see young players come up and play.
This is the biggest stage in women's golf. If you get a chance to play here, this should be a learning experience. Really it is for all of us. But you should come here and enjoy it and look at the players that have been around, learn the routines that they have, what do they do in practice rounds, et cetera. This should really be big lessons for anybody who is here if they don't play on Tour regularly, whether you're 18, 10 -- maybe not ten -- but 12, 18, whatever age they are, come here and learn.
Q. Can you see any harm at all in someone 12 or 13 playing in a national championship like this?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I don't think it was harmful to Morgan. On the contrary. I think she learned a lot. I think it depends on the approach that you have. If you just come here and take it as an event where you want to just learn and be a part of it and enjoy the atmosphere, I think that's great. But if you start putting pressure on yourself and start having expectations, I think that's a little early to do that.
RHONDA GLENN: You were barely out of your teens when you won your first Women's Open. When you first came out on the Tour and started playing with the women's professionals, after being runner up in the Women's Amateur, did you follow that sort of pattern? Did you try to watch the other players, the better players, and see what they did?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I did. For me it was all about a learning experience. I played actually Oakmont in '92. I was 21 then. That was an amazing experience for me. I qualified, just like that, and got an opportunity to play. It was one of my best experiences. I hit balls next to Dottie Pepper, I'll never forget it. As a matter of fact I hit a divot by her and she stared me down. That wasn't the best introduction to Dottie, but we still talk today (laughter).
But anyway, I have some great memories and those are the things that you take away from these events.
Q. Would you still appreciate an apology from Michelle or would it be too little too late?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It's never too late.
Q. She was asked about it today and she said I haven't seen her yet.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I mean -- Michelle is great and so forth. I would love to talk to her about anything. I think she's a great addition to the Tour. I'm welcome to talk about anything, really.
Q. You won't seek her out?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I don't have the need to seek her out, I don't think. I'm here to play this week. I'm here to focus on what I have to do. Michelle is just another competitor.
Q. I know it's been rather limited, but have you noticed any difference the way you've been treated the last couple times out in that you're coming back from an injury, you've been unseated as No. 1. Has there been any more of a fan push behind you at all? I guess it's -- it sounds like I'm calling you old. I'm asking if you've become more of a sentimental favorite, I guess, since maybe the younger players coming out, you're a member of the slightly older guard.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think you're right. It's been great to come back, because I've gotten a lot of comments that said, we missed you or we're glad you're back, we're glad you're healthy. It's just been very positive. I've gotten a lot of texts from players wishing me well.
Every week you play against each other and you're very competitive, but there are times like this when you hear from players you wouldn't really expect and I think that's really pretty cool.
Q. Was last year's Open title the most gratifying Major you had ever won, considering it had been a decade between the Opens and if not, what is the most gratifying Major you ever won?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It's definitely a special one. If you think about it, last year was not my best season in a long time. I thought it was quite ironic to win the U.S. Open, which I consider the biggest tournament in women's golf. And here I come out and win that particular event that means so much. It's just funny how things all come together.
When I was here in '96 I had won it in '95 and I had a chance to win the World Championship and so forth. And then I won here, it just seemed so easy. And I felt like I have mastered the U.S. Open golf course. And I guess when I said that, it hits me, and ten years later I get it back.
It is a special place. I would say that I've been lucky to have many great wins. It's tough to single a particular win out, but it definitely ranks up there, I would say that. To get back on the course and play in a playoff, which I guess is the last time we're going to have 18 holes like that, that was special, too. I'll never forget that week.
It was actually a week where I think my injury started, because I had a sore neck the first three days. And I think that the fog delay really gave me an extra day to heal and just to practice a little bit more. So it's funny how things come together one way or another.
RHONDA GLENN: There's that phrase, "horses for courses", but the Women's Open moves every year. And you've won at the Broadmoor, you've won here at Pine Needles, and you won at Newport Country Club, certainly three great venues. Does that give you something to be proud of about your game that you won on three great championship courses.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Of course, yes, it does. They are all Donald Ross courses, which I like. It's funny, because I'm getting involved in golf course design and something I need to learn from. It's been good. I obviously love old, traditional courses. When you play an Open, just like this, you have to drive the ball well. You have to hit -- you have to have such good control with your irons, and you have to have an incredible short game.
If you think about that it's really all parts of golf. To win a championship you need to have all aspects of the game figured out.
Q. Can you just talk about how much you're looking forward to St. Andrews and the British Open?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, that's another fantastic golf course. I played St. Andrews as an amateur, and I'm trying to remember when it was, it's so long ago.
But that is, I think, a big step in women's golf. If you think of it, for us to play a championship like that at St. Andrews, because I remember when I played as an amateur there was a sign out there that said, "No dogs or women allowed" (laughter). For us to be able to go there now is -- is it still there? Hopefully they'll take it out for the week (laughter). Oh, no women? So, it won't be quite the dog fight then.
But anyway, I think it's going to be great for women -- for us to go play there. I'm looking forward to that.
Q. There's that natural rivalry between Sweden and Norway and could you comment about Suzanne, after her struggling in a Major in March and coming back and winning.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I was so happy for Suzanne. I've had the chance to play with her for many years, especially in the Solheim Cup. When you play out here every week you really don't get a chance to know somebody. It's more, hi, and good shot, and then thanks, and kind of go.
But in the Solheim Cup it's a lot more bonding and she's been my partner several times. I've been able to see the potential there for many years. I'm very happy for her. She's quite the competitor, I would say.
She's been struggling with some injuries the last few years, and she's come back so strongly. I think people made a big deal out of her, the last few holes at Kraft Nabisco, but she bounced totally back and won Kingsmill, which is a huge event and then McDonald's. It's great to see. I'm happy for her.
Q. You talked about playing at St. Andrews. Michelle mentioned wanting to play in The Masters. Your take on women playing on the Men's Tour. Do you want to play The Masters?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I have no desire. I've had my fix. It was great when I -- people asked me about one of the greatest moments in my career, I always say the Colonial. I think it's going to be that way.
I've been fortunate to get invited to Skins games. When Greg Norman invited me to his shootout it was flattering, and I had a lot of fun. But like I said, I've done that. And I have some other business ventures ahead of me that I'd rather focus on the LPGA and kind of spend my energy there. I've learned my lesson and I'm very thankful for that.
Q. You'd mentioned that it's tough to get motivated. I can't think of anybody that might be more motivated than you've been. Why is it tough to be motivated now? Is it just the injury's taking some of that away or something else?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I don't think the injury has taken that away. I think on the contrary, now I might be able to get that back, because I've been away from the game when I really wanted to be in the game. I was forced to just take it easy.
I just think that I have achieved so much more than I thought I ever could. I've won so many tournaments around the world that I never thought I could. I'm satisfied. I'm happy. My career has been fantastic, a lot more than I thought -- look at me, I came from a little town in Sweden and this game has taken me everywhere and I've met some great people and I've just experienced a lot of things. It comes to a point where you say, "I'm happy." My glass is full and I'm enjoying it.
Q. You were talking earlier about -- there's been a lot of talk this week about the young players and the depth of talent on the young players in Tour. Can you compare that to when you came up in '92 and you were looking around at the Tour. Are there a lot more young players that are competitive than what you saw in that time?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think so. My first year was full-time '95 and -- I played quite a bit in '94, as well. But I would say that the Tour has definitely changed. It seems like a lot of players don't take college for granted. It's something that some players do, some don't. They go through high school and decide to turn professional. And maybe they do that because they've had a chance to play in LPGA events as an invite or qualified.
I don't know what it is, but the players are younger, there's no doubt about it. And I think that's -- thanks to the coaching at early ages and they're just ready to come out.
I welcome the youth, I think it's wonderful. It's always good with some fresh blood. If you play good golf, you should be out here.
Q. Are Kathy Whitworth's 88 wins still a goal of yours or has the experience you've gone through with the injury changed that at all?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: The 88 has never really been my goal. When I came out here I was hoping to win one event. When I started to win a few more then I set some new goals. But 88 has never really been my primary goal.
What do I have, 69, that's a lot of wins left. And with the competition so tough and me starting to think about other things, I'm not sure that will happen. Right now I'm just happy to be back here, I'm focusing on this week and we'll see how it goes. If I play well and hopefully I can continue to play the rest of the season and we go from there.
If I get close to 70, 75, I might get another boost and just keep on going. You never know. My goals today are a lot different than they were 12 years ago. So it's tough to predict, but that's not what drives me today.
Q. Did Terry tell me you won whatever that event was that was at St. Andrews, way back from you were just a peewee?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Saint Rules Trophy.
Q. Have you got any details of that, off the top of your head, who all was in it or who was in it? How old you were?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I don't. I remember the par was 75, that I remember, which I thought was good for us.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you so much for being with us. Good luck this week.