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Sorenstam, a math lover and self-confessed geek, says "the numbers always tell the truth." For 16 years she has kept a spreadsheet with all her vital golfing stats--scoring, putting, driving. In 1987 "my scoring average was 77," she notes. Last year it was an LPGA record 68.70. (Tiger Woods' average was 68.56.) "It's fun to see the progress," she says. Despite the presence of phenoms such as Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak, Sorenstam has owned the past two seasons. In 2001 she won 11 tournaments and shot a record-low round of 59; last year she won 13 times, matching a mark set by Hall of Famer Mickey Wright in 1963. "I have days when everything falls into place, but then I think, 'Why can't I do this more often?'"
Her perfectionism stems from her hypercompetitive childhood in the small Swedish town of Bro. Her parents Tom and Gunilla were avid athletes. Though they never pushed Annika, who wanted to be a fighter pilot, or her sister Charlotta, "we were the little boys they never got," says Charlotta, also a pro golfer. The girls played soccer, tennis, badminton and random games that the family invented.
The sisters didn't take to golf until their teens. Annika made the Swedish junior team at 16, but "if someone had said, 'Who will be the next star here?'" says coach Nilsson, "I never would have said Annika had a better chance than any of the others." She did win a scholarship to play at the University of Arizona, where she blossomed in the year-round sunshine, winning the NCAA title as a freshman and the world amateur crown as a sophomore. In 1994 she turned pro and was named Rookie of the Year. In '95 she won her first title, a big one--the U.S. Women's Open.
She couldn't have practiced for what followed. Suddenly Annika the Silent Swede had to be Annika the Swedish Celebrity, giving interview after interview, making public appearances and smiling for photos until it hurt. "I freaked out. I was so mentally tired," she says. "I said, 'I'm not here to show up like a Barbie doll.'"
But now that she's playing against all those titanium-equipped Ken dolls, she knows the media circus "will be unlike anything I've ever experienced before." Can she even take her self-imposed pressure? She has shanked before. Her 43 pro wins include four majors, but she has also blown up big time. In 1997, as two-time U.S. Open defending champion, she missed the cut. Last year she did it at the British Open. "I have a tendency to want it too much," she says. "Sometimes I think about Sunday."
Of the nine men's tournaments she was invited to, she chose the Colonial because the course favors shotmakers, not ball whackers. At 7,080 yds.--with one par five that stretches 609 yds.--the Colonial is still 700 yds. longer than the typical LPGA setup. But it is also the kind of classic course Sorenstam loves, with narrow, tree-lined fairways, deep, ball-eating bunkers and small, slick greens. "Length is not the most important thing," says Colonial head pro Dow Finsterwald Jr. "This is a position golf course"--a plus for Sorenstam, one of the most accurate hitters in the game. She'll have to hope her straight shooting will make up for her power disadvantage--her current 275.4-yd. average drive would rank her 159th on the PGA tour.