"She isn't?" longtime caddie Terry McNamara said, laughing, because he knows how his boss will react to the slight. "I'll be sure to drop that one on her tomorrow."
Still No. 1 in the women's world rankings, Sorenstam won three times on the U.S. tour last year after combining for 35 wins over the previous four seasons. Her string of five consecutive money titles was snapped when she finished third in earnings, though she never mentioned that her father, Tom, had battled cancer all year. Going forward, she plans to play in fewer tournaments this year and will need to maximize her opportunities to win.
"I'm cutting down on a few tournaments and I guess the only good thing about not defending as many (times) is that my schedule is not as full," she cracked.
She isn't ready to cede anything just yet. After admittedly easing into the 2006 season without much preparation, she has been polishing up for the past month at her home in Orlando with longtime coach, Henri Reis, who flew in from Sweden on Feb. 2.
"My mind was on other stuff, which I think is good -- to a point," said Sorenstam, who has made a record $20.3 million in earnings. "But now I've kind of finished some of this stuff and I'm ready to put my mind on the competition again."
Before last season, the traditionally goal-oriented Sorenstam didn't lay out many objectives -- another rarity. "Last year, the only thing she said to me, on the second day we were together, was that we had never won a U.S. Open together," said McNamara, who was hired in 1999. "She said, 'Well, we are going to do that.' And we did."
It marked her 10th major, but little else was accomplished, relative to her norms. A veritable metronome in terms of accuracy over the years, she struggled to find fairways, finishing No. 42 in driving accuracy. She was uncharacteristically sloppy at times.
"Last year, relatively speaking, wasn't a very good year," McNamara said. "But I think she realized toward the end of the year that she really loves the competition and loves to play."
A considerable carrot is out there, still. Just two years ago, Sorenstam won the first two legs of the Grand Slam, a single-season goal that's remains conceivable if she can keep her juggling act together. She has won tournaments on all four of the major championship sites of 2007, including first-time venue St. Andrews, which will host the Women's British Open. Sorenstam won an amateur tournament there as a girl. She won her second U.S. Open title at Pine Needles outside Pinehurst, N.C., which will play host to the biggest title in women's golf again this summer.
"She has always dreamed big," McNamara said. "The Grand Slam, it's still there. I believe she can do it. Really, anything Annika has really set her mind to, I have yet to see her not accomplish."
He's got a point. That interview in Sweden at age 15, it was for a position as a personal assistant at the Swedish PGA.
She got the job.