Annika Sörenstam is nothing short of a legend in golf, and she is one of the game’s best ambassadors. And it’s fair to say that her 10 major championships and 72 tour wins have also made her nothing less than a global celebrity.
But it’s not every day that the Swedish-American Hall of Fame golfer plays as a “celebrity” in a golf event. At the upcoming Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) Tournament of Champions, January 18-23, 2022, Sörenstam is playing among the golf-crazed celebrities of television, film, and other sports, alongside top-ranked LPGA greats such as Nelly Korda, J.Y. Ko, and Brooke Henderson.
In a recent interview, Sörenstam said how excited she was about that, and the LPGA’s excellent field.
“It’s shaping up to be another great year for the LPGA. There are so many players that represent the game well.”
Regarding current world No. 1 player Nelly Korda, Sörenstam said that Korda’s strength, patience, and grace have all just come together at the right time. But also that Korda seems to have the right midset to handle all the accolades that come with laying elite golf.
“Nelly also performs well in big tournaments, and that’s a big deal,” Sörenstam said, in mid-December, during my Zoom call with her. “To do it all last year while winning an Olympic gold medal—that’s a lot of pressure there—but I think she handled that well.”
Another American player Sörenstam peaks highly of is Lexi Thompson, the current world No. 12 player who is always a contender on Sundays.
“I can’t think of anyone who works harder than Lexi. She works very hard in the gym, and she’s very driven. I think that’s why she’s been contending so much—because of that.”
Golf’s future, Tiger’s return
When Annika and I spoke just before the winter holidays it was right before the PNC Championship, an event also known as the Father/Son Challenge.
Not only was that on the radar but so was the announcement that Tiger Woods was ready to return to golf. The next weekend Tiger and his son Charlie were among the many duos scheduled to take part in the PNC. So, I had to ask Annika what she thought about the younger Woods and his golf game.
“I don’t think it would be fair to compare him to his dad at this point. This (the PNC Championship) is a big stage, big names, TV and sponsors,” Sörenstam said.
Annika added: “I’ve only seen him at the PNC, the first time (being) last year. There’s a long way to go, obviously, but he’s top-ranked in his age group, and yeah, Charlie is a really good player.”
Much of Annika Sörenstam’s efforts outside of family time and her appearances at golf events is centered around the ANNIKA Foundation.
The ANNIKA Foundation promotes junior golf through open play, training, and coaching, as well as a series of tournaments for girls and young women. Off the golf course, the foundation promotes the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise and good eating—both for golf and in life.
“It’s really a passion for me,” Annika said about her foundation and its programming. “I do it not just as a thank you to golf. I enjoy being around the next generation of young players. I enjoy seeing them grow too.”
Annika also proudly points out that Korda, who also won Olympic gold last summer in Tokyo, once participated in the foundation’s competitions, as well as scores of other young women in professional golf.
In Episode 30 of the podcast, Annika shares her thoughts about the future of women in golf and why she loves working with and coaching the game’s next generation.
We also talk about playing with celebrities from Jack Wagner to Michael Jordan, and why Orlando, Florida is has become such a hub for golf in the USA.
Read my most recent Forbes.com interview with Annika Sörenstam here.