It’s been six months since we’ve seen World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam play competitive golf. She last teed it up at the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn., and the 72-time LPGA Tour winner trounced the field by a whopping eight shots in her tournament debut, once again crowned major champion. This week at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, the Swede is back in action, competing in the celebrity division at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, a place she’s called home for several years.
“We love this place. It's great to be here. The course is looking fabulous, and having my husband on the bag, the kids around the corner, my parents and friends and family around. It’s going to be a busy one,” said Sorenstam, who made her competitive return at this venue last year playing in the Gainbridge LPGA. “It’s nice to be back and play, and I enjoy playing with the celebrities. I spoke to John Smoltz and he said this is the best-conditioned golf course he's ever seen, and the guy has played a lot of courses. So I think as a Lake Nona member, we're super proud of this place.”
Though a bulging disc and a bout with COVID-19 derailed her preparation for the event, Sorenstam is still optimistic about her game and is feeling much more comfortable playing tournament golf than she did this time last year. Teeing it up as a celebrity instead of as an LPGA Tour Member will be different for the 10-time major champion, but she’s looking forward to putting the pedal to the metal and attacking the course more than she typically would in a regular tournament round.
“I've always been more of a steady type of player, not too aggressive,” Sorenstam said. “I just try to hit fairways and greens, which is good in stroke play. But here the format benefits birdies, benefits eagles. So I need to be a little bit more aggressive, but it's not a golf course that I feel like I can be aggressive. I need points obviously. One point here isn't going to do much. I know a lot of celebrities are going to have shorter irons to the par 5s especially and make a lot of birdies. I might try to be a little more aggressive and then we'll see what happens.”
Make no mistake, the ultra-competitive Annika is ever-present and the need to win is a feeling that’s sometimes hard to quash. But with age comes perspective, and Sorenstam implores herself to just enjoy the moment and relish these opportunities as they’ve become fewer and further between.
“I'm lucky to be able to wear a lot of different hats, being a mom and being a wife and an entrepreneur and being a philanthropist, and now I'm putting on my host hat and my competing hat. I feel like I have my role to play. If I can sometimes step away from that, just the hard-core competitor I am, then maybe I can smell the roses a little bit more,” said Sorenstam. “I think the hardest part is when you know what a good shot is supposed to look like and you know what it's supposed to feel like and when you don't do it under these conditions, it's like, ‘Okay, take a big breath. Your kids still love you. When you go back, you're still going to have a lot of things to do.’ It's a fine balance. I try to do the best I can.”