The words still do not come as easily as the wins.
"I'm still pretty shy," Annika Sorenstam said.
Maybe so, but she certainly has not been shy about her goals in the game she dominates.
She strives to win the Grand Slam, which no woman -- not Babe Didrikson Zaharias, not Mickey Wright, not Nancy Lopez -- has accomplished. This week, in the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Golf Course, she will try to keep it alive, the impossible dream that doesn't seem so impossible anymore.
"I would rather let it out and play and see what happens," Sorenstam, 34, said at a news conference Tuesday. "If I didn't have lofty goals, who knows what I will be doing today?"
Sorenstam, who captured the season's first major, the Nabisco Championship, by five strokes in late March, arrives here in the typically torrid form she has displayed over the last two years. Since her breakthrough appearance at the Colonial on the PGA Tour in May 2003, Sorenstam has won 18 times, including five of her seven starts this season. Last week, after tying for second a week earlier, she won the ShopRite LPGA Classic by four strokes with a final-round 64.
"If you look at the last two weeks, I think I'm as ready as I can be," she said.
Sorenstam, like the rest of the field, will be playing an unfamiliar course. Since 1994, the event had been staged at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del. Sorenstam, the two-time defending champion, played Bulle Rock, which measures 6,486 yards, for the first time Tuesday.
"It's quite tough and the rough is very thick," she said. "I think the key will be driving. I want to stay in the short grass. You really got to control the ball this week. You have got to have all your game here."
As dominating as her last two years have been, Sorenstam might be performing at an even higher level in 2005. She is once again on top of the LPGA money list, with more than $1.2 million.
"I think overall I'm a lot more solid player," she said. "My chipping has improved and bunker shots. I'm trying to use my imagination a little bit more. I've always been a player that uses one club and hits the same type of shots all the time. You have different grass and greens, so I'm learning to adjust a little bit. It's the key to be able to go up to a shot and not be afraid. I used to look at it and go 'bogey.' "
Sorenstam, who has filed for divorce, also has had to adjust to changes off the course. Golf has certainly played an important role.
"I have less responsibilities at home, and I'm throwing myself into it a little bit more," she said. "This is my way of moving on with my life. I'm doing something I love and something I can control."
Sorenstam, to be sure, will not be the only player attracting plenty of attention this week. Michelle Wie, the 15-year-old amateur from Hawaii, is entered here, as well as Paula Creamer, the 18-year-old rookie who won three weeks ago. Another player to watch is Cristie Kerr, 27, who is second on the money list behind Sorenstam. Kerr, with six finishes in the top three this season, does not appear to be intimidated.
"She's the best player in the world," Kerr said, "but we're all pretty good, too, and we're all ready to challenge."
When the tournament gets under way on Thursday, Sorenstam will be taking on more than her peers. She will be going after history. If she wins this week, she will become the first player to capture the same major three years in a row. It would also be her ninth major, breaking a tie for fifth place with Betsy Rawls. Patty Berg leads with 15.
The next hurdle would come in only two weeks at the U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills in Colorado. The final major is the Women's British Open, set for late July at Royal Birkdale in England.
"If you want to peak sometime during the season, this is it," said Sorenstam, who, with 61 career victories, is also closing on Kathy Whitworth (88), the all-time LPGA leader. "A lot of big tournaments are decided this month and next month. I try to pace myself. I started a little slow this year and didn't play too many tournaments until the last few weeks. I'm hoping that's going to be my key, that I'm rested and can play well now."
Yet if this attempt at the Grand Slam falls short, there will no doubt be another.
"If I don't achieve it, it won't be the end of the world for me," she said. "I'm already proud of what I have achieved in my career."