Sorenstam wins third Open title

Annika Sorenstam kept trying to convince herself the US Women's Open was just another tournament.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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Newport, Rhode Island:

Annika Sorenstam kept trying to convince herself the US Women's Open was just another tournament. Tiger Woods kept calling her through the weekend to cheer her on. Every shot demanded so much thought. Then came the 18-hole playoff on Monday against Pat Hurst, which turned out to be the easiest task Sorenstam faced at Newport Country Club. By seizing control from the start, Sorenstam built a big lead early and made short work of Hurst, closing with a 1-under 70 for a four-shot victory and her third Open title. No doubt, this was the sweetest. "It's been 10 years. It's been 10 long years,'' Sorenstam said. "But I'm very grateful and thankful.'' Defiant answer After four months without a victory, all it took was one week at historic Newport for Sorenstam to deliver a defiant answer about the state of her game and that so-called slump. "To come here this week, with not such a great season and then to win is pretty ironic,'' Sorenstam said. "I wanted to approach it like it was any other week. I was just thinking, 'Pretend it's not the Open. Try not to think about the consequences of this tournament enjoy yourself. I think I did pretty good.'' She was at her best in the playoff from the very first hole. Downhill journey Sorenstam hit a sand wedge that landed in the first cut of rough behind the green and spun back to 6 feet for birdie, which turned into a two-shot lead when Hurst's wedge was heavy and spun off the green. Hurst left her first putt 10 feet short, didn't even get her par putt to the hole and it was all downhill from there. "It hurts,'' Hurst said. "You don't know how many more chances you're going to have.'' Sorenstam won her 10th major championship, tied with Babe Zaharias for fourth all-time and now she's only five majors behind Patty Berg for most in US LPGA Tour history. Sorenstam has won a major in each of the last six years, the second-longest streak in US LPGA history behind Mickey Wright. Longest drought Since winning the US Women's Open in 1995 and 1996, Sorenstam had won 63 times and seven majors, establishing herself as the best in the game. "This was important,'' said her swing coach, Henri Reis, who flew over from Sweden to work on a stronger grip for Sorenstam, then watched her miss only three fairways and four greens in the playoff. Sorenstam had gone eight tournaments without winning, her longest drought in five years. She wasn't a serious threat in either of the year's first two majors, won by her old rivals Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak. "They expect too much sometimes,'' Reis said. "In Sweden, they expect even more. They expect her to win every tournament.'' The four-shot margin of victory was the largest in a US Women's Open playoff since Kathy Cornelius won by seven shots 50 years ago. Sorenstam won for the 68th time in her career, leaving her 20 short of Kathy Whitworth's all-time record. She earned $560,000 from the biggest prize in women's golf, pushing her over $20 million for her career. (AP)