WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –Annika Sorenstam spent her entire competitive career pursuing the impossible, or rather reimagining what is possible. She was the first women in 50 years to play in a PGA Tour event; shot the only 59 in LPGA history; won 72 tour events, including 10 major championships, and in one remarkable six-year stretch notched 46 victories with eight majors.
Now, as captain of the Europe’s Solheim Cup team, she faces what seems to be an impossible task, and this time she can’t do anything about the outcome with her golf clubs. With her team trailing by a record five points going into Sunday’s singles play, Sorenstam needs to inspire a comeback of record-shattering proportions.
On Saturday night, as she spoke to her team, Annika reminded them to do what she did as well as anyone who has ever played the game – commit 100 percent to each shot. She told them to play with passion, have fun and embrace the moment. She told them to make memories.
“There was more love in that room than I have ever seen,” says someone who was there. “Everyone spoke. It was just amazing.”
On Saturday, Europe simply ran into a buzz-saw as the United States played unbelievable golf, especially in the afternoon four-ball session.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sorenstam said. “We had 35 birdies and one eagle and lost three matches. “I’m so proud of them,” she said about her squad. “They never gave up.”
Until the day she retired, Annika believed in her heart of hearts that one day she would go out and birdie every hole. It was a vision that the teachers Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott call Vision 54 – the score you’d shoot on a par-72 course if you made 18 birdies.
When she shot that 59, Sorenstam played close to perfect golf, making birdie on the first eight holes and 12 of the first 13. If anyone can convince 12 women that the impossible can be pulled off it is Sorenstam.
Each day she has given her players a bracelet engraved with an inspirational slogan. The one they will wear Sunday reads: “She believed she could and so she did.”
“I’m going to tell them that every ‘she’ is every player,” Sorenstam said. “You just have to go out there and believe in themselves, focus on their own match and don’t look at any leaderboards. Like you’re getting in a boxing ring with an opponent, just punch ‘em.”
Reminded that the New England Patriots were trailing 28-3 midway through the third quarter before coming back to win the Super Bowl earlier this year, Sorenstam smiled and said, “Maybe I’ll tell them that.”
Then, as she turned to leave she said: “Mission impossible,” that old competitive fire flashing in her eyes. Those words coming from someone who spent a career redefining what’s possible made you feel she didn't think this was over yet. She still believes.