Annika Sorenstam is one of the most accomplished golfers, male or female, in the history of the sport. Sorenstam's career has been one of ceaseless achievement on both the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour and on a broader international level.
Sorenstam was born into a family with pronounced athletic interests. After taking up golf at age 12, she joined the Swedish junior national program at age 14. Sorenstam ascended to the Swedish national team at age 17, in 1987.
Sorenstam was one of the first foreign born players recruited to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women's golf when she accepted a golf scholarship to the University of Arizona in 1990. Arizona had produced a number of highly successful professional players, the most noteworthy being Masters champion Phil Mickleson. Sorenstam won the NCAA women's title in 1991.
After the 1992 college season Sorenstam left Arizona to become a professional golfer. Sorenstam joined the LPGA Tour in 1993, and by the end of the 1994 season she had finished in the top ten at LPGA events five times. Sorenstam earned her first victory on the LPGA tour in 1995, at the U.S. Women's Open, a victory that touched off a remarkable run of success. By the end of the 1996 LPGA season Sorenstam had won four more tournaments, as well as capturing the LPGA Player of the Year award.
Notwithstanding the challenges mounted in individual tournaments from notable players such as Kerrie Webb and Lori Kane, Sorenstam continued to be the player all other LPGA players aspired to match. Sorenstam was never a competitor to be perceived as resting upon her hard earned playing laurels, and she forged a reputation as one of the hardest practicing players in golf, male or female.
Sorenstam's hard work in practice paid off in both the 2001 and the 2002 LPGA seasons, as she became a breathtakingly consistent golfing machine. In 2001 Sorenstam reclaimed the Vare Trophy, awarded to the player on the LPGA tour with the lowest scoring average, with a 69.42 scoring average, only one one-hundredth of a point below Webb's record breaking 1999 average, and then in 2002 Sorenstam shattered the record with a 68.70. Sorenstam hit the green from the fairway 80% of the time that season, making her the most accurate golfer, male or female, in the world.
Sorenstam remained committed to a total fitness and strength training regimen notwithstanding her success. In 2001, armed with her new strength and her consistency, Sorenstam shot the best single round of golf ever by a woman on the LPGA Tour. At the Standard Register Ping tournament in 2001, Sorenstam shot a 59, something that only six male golfers have done in the history of the sport.
In the 2002 year, Sorenstam tied another longstanding LPGA record by winning 13 tournaments in a single season, matching the standard set by LPGA Hall of Fame player Mickey Wright. Sorenstam's achievement was all the more impressive because she compiled her 13 wins in only 25 LPGA tournaments, where Wright played in 33 events in setting the record in 1963.
The process for admission into the LPGA Hall of Fame is unique in professional sport. Unlike those sports where Hall of Fame status is first advanced by a nomination and followed by a subsequent vote by a committee tasked to determine the eligibility of the prospective member, the LPGA adopted a points system as a more objective standard for Hall of Fame inclusion. LPGA major wins are worth a set number of points towards the Hall of Fame total, as are lesser amounts for regular LPGA tour event wins. In addition to points accumulated on the LPGA tour, the player must have won at least one Vare award, and have played on the LPGA tour for at least 10 years. Sorenstam became the earliest inductee into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 2003, as she accumulated her 49th tour victory and easily surpassed the requisite point total for Hall of Fame admission.
From the commercial perspective of women's professional golf, Sorenstam's career winnings of over 18 million dollars as of the commencement of the 2006 season was the record for the most money ever won on the LPGA tour.
An enduring question in competitive women's golf is that of the comparison between the elite women's players, such as Sorenstam, and the best of the men's PGA tour. At 5 ft 6 in (1.7 m) tall, Sorenstam is much smaller than most male players, and there is little question that her average driving distance off the tee of approximately 260 yd (200 m) pales in comparison to that of many capable male amateur players, let alone a elite level PGA touring professional. In 2003, in an event designed for a television audience, Sorenstam competed against leading male professionals Fred Couples, Phil Mickleson, and Mark O'Meara in an event called the Skins Game.
Sorenstam's most controversial participation in a men's golf tournament occurred in May, 2003, when she was invited to play through the device of a sponsor's exemption in the PGA Colonial tournament at Fort Worth, Texas. Sorenstam's entry attracted some stinging commentary from a number of male professionals, most notably that of elite player Vijay Singh, who was so aggravated by the Sorenstam entry into the tournament that he declared that he would not play if he were paired with Sorenstam during the event. At the Colonial, Sorenstam became the first woman since Hall of Famer Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play in a men's event. Although she failed to make the cut, Sorenstam' creditable play against an elite male field placed her at the 96th position, out of 111 golfers.
Sorenstam has another distinction on the LPGA circuit, as her sister Charlotte has toured for a number of seasons as very capable professional in her own right. Two sisters playing on the LPGA tour at the same time is a rarity.
In golf, given the influence of technological advances in both clubs and golf balls, it is difficult to compare the performance of players from one era to another. Sorenstam is demonstrably one of the greatest player in the history of women's golf.