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July 6, 2011

Annika Sorenstam


RHONDA GLENN: Good morning. I would like now to introduce Mike Davis, who is the executive direct for of the United States Golf Association. Mike?
MIKE DAVIS: Good morning, everybody. I guess it's still morning. Ive been out on the course since about 5:00 this morning. It's my pleasure to be here today, and a bigger pleasure to be introducing Annika Sorenstam, who really needs no introduction.
But it's somewhat ironic and befitting that we're here at the Broadmoor which was the site of Annika's first professional victory and her first US Open as a professional in 1995. Obviously, you know, she cut her teeth that week and went on to win a few victories after that.
It's great to have Annika here. I know on behalf of the Broadmoor and the USGA, Annika, thank you so much for being the honorary chairman for this U.S. Women's Open Championship.
I'd also want to just say a few words on behalf of the USGA, to say how much we appreciate Annika being the USGA's ambassador of golf. You know, to date she's done some really neat things for us. She and I actually a few years ago did some rules of golf vignettes where you kept breaching the rules and I kept trying to keep you out of trouble.
But we had a lot of fun doing that. In her last Women's Open, which was in 20008 at Interlachen - at least the last to date. I'm sure we can find you a place in this field any time you want to come back.
But she gave us really a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to prepare for a US Open Championship, and we're grateful for that. I know it last year, I guess, or two years ago, where we had our joint junior championships of the U.S. girls junior and U.S. boys junior together.
She addressed all 312 players at that. She's done a lot of things for the USGA, and obviously a lot of great things for the game of golf. We can't thank her enough.
And right after this, she has a very busy schedule today. She will be appearing on the practice range about 11:00 this morning to do a junior clinic.
Annika, I know on behalf of all of us in golf we can't thank you enough. It's great to have you here. With that, we'll turn it over to you for a few words.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: All right. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Rhonda. Good to see you both again.
Great to see you all. It's been a while. I'm trying to think of the last time I had a press conference. I might be a little rusty. It's certainly great to be here. This place brings back some wonderful memories, and of course it was 16 years ago that I would say this kind of kick-started my career.
You know, I've always considered the U.S. Open the biggest championship in women's golf, and obviously to make it my first win was even special. So I just want to maybe comment on what you said there, Mike.
I'm certainly honored to be the ambassador for USGA, and I was maybe breaking the rules, but you were hitting the balls in the wrong places. (Laughing.) So hit the fairways and the greens and we wouldn't have to worry about it. I am looking forward to continue that partnership and do a lot more together.
Again, great to be here. It's kind of fun to catch up with players I haven't seen in a while and kind of getting a feel for the tournament atmosphere. Again, that's been a while, too. Been doing some other things lately. Great to be out and seeing some friends and catching up and seeing some sponsors.
But it is a busy day, so I'm glad to be here.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you, Annika. Along with being a really truly imposing figure in the entire game of golf, Annika has continued her commercial activities. In fact, just today she's signed a marketing partnership with ADP, so she is one woman who is really on the ball and always busy.
But I would be remiss if I didn't ask you first of all, how is your son, Will, doing? Give us an update.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I'd be happy to do so. My little buddy Will is doing great. He's now three-and-a-half months. He's been home for seven weeks. I mean, most of you know he was born at 27 weeks, so he was 13 weeks early.
So it's been kind of an adjustment for us. It's been a tough start for our little man, but he's a fighter and he's now almost 10 pounds. He's doing really well. You know, keeping up with our 22-month-old girl, you can imagine I'm staying quite busy.
Life is good. I love being a mom, and I love just the things I'm doing. He's doing great, and we continue to obviously give him all the support and love that he needs.
We're going to start traveling with him in a few months, so he will come out on the road.
RHONDA GLENN: Good. That's a happy story, and we're pleased to hear it, Annika. We'll open the floor to questions.

Q. So I realize that you want to pour into today's youth. In your shoes and right before you made it big there in 1995, there were people who believed in you who saw the potential that you had. If you could speak to that and just about what you're trying to build into today's youth who are interested in golf, what would it be in your life if you didn't have those people who saw your potential and said, We need to pay attention to this girl?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I did have and continue to have a great network and a great family to support me. Obviously my parents were my biggest supporter, and they drove me around to all kinds of tournaments when I was in Sweden. They knew I had a dream for playing, so they were there for me.
As a little girl, I dreamt about winning the U.S. Open, but you just never know if that will ever take place. Again, it happened here, so I was fortunate that that happened.
But to see so many kids today that play, you know, they love the game and they have all these dreams, and, you know, there are some great junior tournaments out there and support from coaches, from, you know, colleges and, I mean, you name it.
There's really a great amount of opportunity to follow these opportunities to follow these dreams. What I try to do through my foundation is to encourage especially young girls to pick up the game, and if they're already playing, to continue the game. I.
Think that's what we see nowadays is we don't see too many kids play, we don't see them staying in the game. Especially young girls. There are so many other interests out there that kind of captures their attention.
I have been involved in so many scholarships out there the last few -- well, I should say 10 years. I'm hosting an AJGA event for the top 72 girls in the world. Just trying to encourage them to play and create opportunities for these young girls to have an opportunity to follow their dreams.
It's been fun. I mean, I look back on my career, and it's so important to have the support system and have the network that help you. Not a lot of these kids have that, you know. Golf courses are not always -- you know, maybe not right at their footsteps. Tournaments might not be there.
But I think it's so important that we start at the grassroots level, get these kids to play, grow the game in every area we can, and focusing on the girls. It's been fun for me.
The invitational that I host - we've done it for three years - we have now taken it to Asia. I'm hosting an Annika Invitational in China this August, and we're hoping to expand it around the world. For me, it's just a great way to give back. I love doing it, and to see these girls with their smiles and their dreams, there is nothing better.
Because like I said, it wasn't that long ago that I was there. So for me to give them a helping hand is really, really cool.

Q. How much do you miss playing? How much do you miss the game?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You know, I haven't played in a long time, obviously, with Will and with the pregnancy. But, you know, I do not miss it. You know, it might sound strange. I mean, here I competed for so many years on such a high level. 24/7, that's what I did. That was my love, and I loved it.
But once I made a decision to step away, you know, I stepped away. I practice very little; I play very little. You know, I think really what keeps me still in the game is because of all the interests I have. I mean, I do a lot with the Academy, coming to events like this, designing golf courses with my foundation.
I'm still involved in the game. I'm part of the advisory board for the LPGA. You know, it's golf every day, I just don't play it. I think that's kind of where I get my golf fix. I feel like I can help the game grow in different ways.
Life has worked out very well for me. I'm very happy where I am. You know, I don't have any plans of coming back by any means. You know, I've taken my competitive drive in a different area. I'm very competitive in the business world, and it's very needed today. As you know, with the economy, I can't think of a tougher time to jump into the business world with a different ventures that I have. So I get my competitive fix there.
So again, life is good.

Q. An interesting pairing here this week with Paula Creamer, defending champ, and Yani Tseng, No. 1 player. If you could, comment on what you see in both those players, and could you talk about the dynamic of a when you have a pairing like this in the first two rounds how it might shape a competition?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: First of all, I love this type of pairings. As far as those two players go, we have Paula, you know, defending champion, somebody that I think is great for the game. You know, she hasn't won this year, so I'm sure she's looking for, you know, defending, but then also to play well here.
Then you have Yani who is obviously the best player in the world right now playing the best golf. I think it's not just a great pairing, but I'm sure they're going to be feeding off each other a little bit. They're both very competitive, totally different games. I would say Yani is a little bit longer than Paula, and it's just a different game.
But it's kind of the next generation. With Yani you see the international flavor, and then you see the American star. So it's a good pairing. I expect them both to play well. I think this golf course is going to fit their games.
Even though Paula is not as long - but she hits a lot of greens - she's just solid all around and certainly has a lot of experience.

Q. Could you just expand a little more? You had your eye on Yani since she was at least a rookie; you were kind of one of her early backers. Just the level of play you have seen from her over the last five majors.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I mean, I've seen what you have seen. It's a young lady that, you know, she has improved a lot. She has just embraced the golf world. She's doing so many great things. She's really taken the No. 1 spot to another level.
She's learning English. She wants to be the best. She wants to be the face of the LPGA. I mean, she's got the game. I think we all know that. Long hitter and good short game and all that.
But, you know, she's very mentally strong. I mean, to come out and win four majors already at the age of 22, I think it's impressive. What I saw many years ago was just that: I saw an impressive young lady with a lot of potential, a lot of will. She just has the pieces of the game that I thought would make it. And the pieces she didn't have, she either went and found them or improved whatever she had. She's worked very, very hard to be where she is today.
I think we're going to see more of her. I'm sure all of you think so. But I agree. This is just a beginning. I think she's good for the face of the LPGA. Hopefully the other players will keep up her pace, because it's going to be quite the competitive race the next few years.
RHONDA GLENN: As the only one to have won the Women's Open on the Broadmoor course, could you tell us what would be the most important factor of winning this championship here on this course?
Not just, Keep your drives in the fairway, hit all the greens, and make all your putts, but something that would really be key to winning here.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah. Other than the obvious, like you said, it was 16 years ago. I don't remember every hole. I don't remember every little detail of the golf course. But, you know, it's playing long this year. I believe it's over 7,000 yards.
You know, you go out there and you look at these greens, and the greens are really tricky, very undulated. You really have to be in the right places of the greens. It's not just, okay, I hit the green and you have a birdie putt. There are tricks to putting well here. Everybody knows where the mountain is, but it's tricky out there.
So, you know, these practice rounds are really important for the players. Getting to know, you know, how much the elevation is affecting their shots, how are the greens, where are the slopes, I mean, you name it. The practice rounds are going to be very, very important here.
The rough doesn't seem as thick. Again, I've just been sitting in a golf cart. Maybe that's not the best way to judge it. I have seen some players hit some rescue clubs out of the rough. I have seen them hit longer irons.
So I don't think it puts much premium maybe on the accuracy. It's more about the length and be able to hit shorter irons, higher irons into the greens so we can stop it. I think that's going to be the key.
A long answer to your question, but I mean, I think a long hitter is going to do better here, because you can't have these rescue clubs, you know, bumping into the greens because you have these fall offs on the right and left. It's like we always say, Whoever plays the best is going to win here.
But it's going to be a longer hitter is my guess.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you. That's just what I was looking for.

Q. Michelle Wie, what do you remember about playing against her, with her, kind of the buzz that went along with her back when she was a teenager and what you're seeing from her now that she's 22, in college, all those type of things?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, time certainly flies. She's 22 now. A lot of things have happened since. When she came out there was a lot of buzz, a lot of potential from this young lady. She probably has one of the best golf swings in the game today.
I would say she has not performed to her expectations or her potential. Hopefully that will come in the next - maybe this year or the next few years to follow. But she's one of those long hitters, one of those who plays with a lot of different shots in her bag. She hits some wedges just beautifully.
You know, I think really her focus, in my opinion, should be more on the golf. She's very distracted with school, doesn't really play as much full time as I thought she would. I think she needs to come out here and compete more regularly. But she certainly has a lot of potential.
The physical part is there. Sometimes you wonder if she's mentally strong enough to finish at the top. She has a few victories, but has not really been able to really breakthrough, in my opinion.
I mean, she has a lot of experience from a lot of different tournaments. We've all seen that on the PGA, and so forth, but it's not really come out as strong as I thought she would.

Q. With your exhibition coming up in just a little bit, have you had a chance to work or see Marielle before today?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I have not. It's not really an exhibition. I didn't bring any clubs. I haven't really swung a golf club in nine months. I don't think anybody wants to see me swing at this time. I'm sure she can give me a few pointers.
She's 12 years old, and I cannot imagine what would be like to be at that age and playing this championship. I started playing golf at the age of 12, so I can certainly not relate.
I'm looking forward to seeing her swing and talking and just interacting with her. What a great week for her. I hope that she really absorbs everything and just enjoys what's right in front of her.

Q. On the flip side, as a young girl being in front of the media and on such a big stage as the Women's U.S. Open, do you think it's too much pressure? Does it fall into what parents are often kind of pushing and pulling you in the world of athletics and sports and potential scholarships for college? Do you think it's too much for her at this age?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I have not met her or her parents. I'm not sure what they're all about and the goals of this week. She has some potential. She qualified here. I hope that they just embrace that and just have fun with it.
You know, it's not about how young you are. It's how you play. I certainly hope that, again, just enjoy the week, have fun, and not put too much pressure on herself. It's very competitive out here. She has so many years ahead of her. There's no need to rush.
Like I said, it's hard for me to comment on somebody I haven't met or what their intentions are. But I certainly hope they don't put too much pressure on her, because you don't want these young girls to burn out too early if you don't enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, then you're not in the right place.

Q. What do you think you would score out here today?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: What I would score?

Q. Yeah.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I have no idea. (Laughter.)
RHONDA GLENN: If you were playing at your peak.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I mean, it's tough to tell. Like I said, I haven't played, but I do enjoy this golf course. It was good to me then, and I would hope it would be good to me again.
It's really tough to tell. I mean, like I said, I haven't played. I mean, the last time I played competitive it was at Callaway Invitational at Pebble Beach in November, and I surprised myself. I had hardly played.
I was pregnant at the time and I shot under par at those tough courses. Starting out the week I thought if I could shoot less than 10-over par I'm happy, so I certainly broke my own expectations. I guess I know how to get from A to B. It might not be as pretty, but the experience helped.
And obviously, again, I'm very competitive, and I'm sure that will never go away.

Q. Can you, given your experience, provide some insight as to why amateurs perform so well in what is arguably the most difficult championship around?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: First of all, we have a lot of amateurs playing in these tournaments than other tournaments, so I guess the odds are higher that they will play.
Keep in mind at lot of these amateurs are really good players. They are not all 12 years old. I mean, a lot of them are in college, and some them are even older. You know, I think a lot of them come out here with less expectation and just come out and play.
I think a lot of us professional, we build this tournament up so much that we almost get in our own way. I speak from my own experience. I did that myself. I came into the U.S. Open and I would be playing some great golf, and then once the tournament started I just, again, got in my own way.
So I think a lot of these amateurs go out there and just play; they don't expect anything. You know, the winning score is very seldom 10-under or less. I mean, it's around par, maybe a few under or maybe a few over.
If you're a very steady player, you can play well here and can perform and finish, you know, towards the top. I think that's one of the reasons.

Q. Just following up her question about youth, Lexi Thompson was just granted a waiver of the 18-year-old age restriction so she could attend Q-school this summer. She's 16, 17 next year. Just your thoughts on that waiver being granted.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I'm going to be honest. I was a little surprised. I just saw it yesterday traveling here. I haven't really followed it all so far. But, you know, we have the rules, 18 years old, I believe, and it was put there for a reason. So I was surprised that it was changed.
I mean, there is no doubt that Lexi has potential. She's a great young lady. You know, I've seen her play, I've followed her process and the progress with her parents. I mean, seems like a great golf family.
But as far as being so young and being out on tour, I can only speak of my own experience that it's not easy. We all know about the travel; we all know about the tough competition.
You know, it takes a lot more than just to be able to hit a 7-iron or making a few putts. You have to come out here and rent a car. She can't even rent a car, so she is has to have parents or, you know, agents or somebody help her, you know, and being away from friends and family when you're at the age of 16 when a lot of things can influence you. So it will be interesting to see.
I mean, I'm sure there are some young ladies who would do it better than others. But, you know, I'm one of those players that go back to, Hey, take your time. Enjoy high school golf, enjoy college golf, enjoy representing your own country in the Curtis Cup or all these different events they have out there.
So I just hope that she takes her time. Sometimes you see these young ladies who push themselves too hard and you wonder how long they will stay. I can tell you, I joined the tour at the age of 24, and I played, as you all know, for 16 years, and I was still competitive at that age.
There is no need to hurry out here. It can be very competitive and very, very lonely. It's physically taxing on you. You have to be ready for this challenge, not just to hit golf shots, but for the whole thing around it: media and traveling and sponsors and all the obligations that come with it.

Q. Since you were here, since you won the U.S. Open I guess you said 16 years ago, how has the game changed, the evolution in terms of the focus on length and power as opposed to maybe the short game, and is it a good thing or a bad thing?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I think it's a good thing. I think that golf has certainly evolved. Equipment has a lot to do it, but I also think the golfers have a lot to do with it. The golfers today, they are very, very focused and athletic, work out a lot, and are very committed to the game.
Not to say we weren't 15 years ago. It's not that long ago. I'm just saying the trend is there are more athletes out here. They travel with their coaches, they work out, and they pay attention more to their nutrition. I mean, the equipment, you see the equipment vans every week making sure that everything is in order.
It's just so competitive out there that you cannot leave anything out there. You have to just be perfect in what I see in every area. I think it's good for the game. I mean, you used to be able to win major championships, and the score, you know, around par, maybe a few over.
That doesn't happen as much anymore. The scoring average overall is lower for all the players. The depth is there. We see the international flavor. I mean, a lot of things have changed in 15 years, and I think it's great changes, it's good for the game, and I think it's exciting for a fan.
For a player, it keeps you on your toes. You have to figure out ways to get better and grow the game, and so it's good.
RHONDA GLENN: You're to be congratulated for all that you're doing with your career and your family. We're delighted to have you here.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Thank you, Rhonda. It's great to be back. We used to sit here a lot, so it brings back some memories.

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