Annika Sorenstam steadily pulled away from her closest pursuer, fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann, to capture the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in her championship debut.
Sorenstam, who turned 50 last October, closed with a four-under-par 68 on Sunday to complete 72 holes at 12-under 276 and post an eight-stroke victory over Neumann, who finished with a two-over 74, in the third edition of the championship at Brooklawn Country Club.
“It’s really hard to describe,” said Sorenstam of winning her fourth USGA championship, after U.S. Women’s Open victories in 1995, 1996 and 2006. “When we came here, I just loved the place from the start. Everything felt so good, and then obviously you have to go out there and finish it up, and today I really felt like I played very, very well. To come in here on Sunday knowing what I had to do, and I did it, obviously I'm very happy.”
Neumann eagled the opening hole of the day, a 435-yard par 5, which briefly tied Sorenstam at eight-under, but Sorenstam converted her own birdie putt on the same green to edge back in front by one stroke. The margin stayed at one for just one hole. Neumann bogeyed holes 3, 5 and 8, while Sorenstam made five consecutive pars and back-to-back birdies on the par-5 seventh and eighth holes to extend her advantage to six strokes.
“When we came here, I just loved the place from the start. Everything felt so good, and then obviously you have to go out there and finish it up, and today I really felt like I played very, very well." - Annika Sorenstam.
When Neumann bogeyed the par-3 10th and Sorenstam rolled home a 20-foot birdie putt, the margin was eight and the closing holes became something of a coronation. Sorenstam’s total of 276 tied Laura Davies’ record total from the inaugural championship at Chicago Golf Club, when Davies, of England defeated Juli Inkster by a 10-stroke margin.
It completed a wire-to-wire victory, with Sorenstam sharing the lead after Round 1 (at 67, with Dana Ebster) and then holding the sole advantage the rest of the way.
Neumann finished solo second, with Davies one stroke farther back after a closing 71. Yuko Saito, of Japan, and Catriona Matthew, of Scotland, tied for fifth place at two-under 286. Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port and Martha Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, shared low-amateur honours at 6-over 294, in a tie for 20th place.
Neumann, the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion, shot 71 on Saturday to trim Sorenstam’s lead from three strokes to two, after Annika shot an even-par 72. Sorenstam had missed six fairways on Saturday, an uncharacteristic ball-striking effort, and she returned to the practice tee with her family on Saturday evening.
“After the round, we took a little break and then we went out and I got a little support,” said Sorenstam of daughter Ava, 11, son Will, 10, and husband Mike McGee, who caddied for her. “Ava kept telling me, ‘When you hit a shot tomorrow, Mommy, don't have anything in your mind.’ And then Will told me to believe that I can do it, and Mike said, ‘Just go out there and enjoy.’
“I got a lot of good pointers. Sometimes you don’t know if kids listen to what you say, but a lot of these words I feel like they’ve come out of my mouth to them and now I’m getting it back. I’ve got to live my own lessons.”
This week, Sorenstam provided a lesson in hard work to her children, her fans and her fellow competitors.