Sorenstam fuels the dream

Published : Aug 23, 2003 00:00 IST

Annika Sorenstam, who has brought the women's game to life as none other, completed her "dream season" by winning the Weetabix British Women's Open by a shot from Se Ri Pak at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.


Annika Sorenstam, who has brought the women's game to life as none other, completed her "dream season" by winning the Weetabix British Women's Open by a shot from Se Ri Pak at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. It was the Swede's second major of the season, the sixth of her career and the one to win her a career Grand Slam. Only six players have done as much in women's golf.

It was also the 46th win of Sorenstam's career and the 15th time she has had to come from behind.

The last-day leaderboard was no less impressive than that at the Open at Royal St. George's, save that there was no Ben Curtis.

All the top players were up there — Sorenstam, Pak, Karrie Webb and the engaging Patricia Meunier Lebouc. Meunier Lebouc had gone into final round with the lead and all the extra support that you would expect for one expecting her first child in February.

Sorenstam kept seeing this impressive array of names and, by way of handling the pressure, drew on her experiences in this year's Colonial, where she competed alongside the men. "I kept saying to myself, `If I could do a 71 on the first day at the Colonial with all that pressure, I can handle this . . .' "

Though she paid only the one visit to sand — at the fourth — the rest were in and out of bunkers all the time, with no one making more of a splash over the day than Alison Nicholas who, in lining up a putt in front of the greenside bunker at the 13th, fell over backwards.

Meunier Lebouc's problems started in earnest when she was bunkered short of the sixth green. She failed to get out at her first attempt before playing out sideways with her second. It was the right thing to do, but it ruined her momentum.

Pak was in four bunkers all told, with the visit at the par-five 11th paving the way for Sorenstam to go ahead of her for the first time. The Korean got up and down from the greenside bunker at the 17th to stay alongside Sorenstam at 10 under, but the fairway bunker at the 18th proved her undoing.

She had taken a three-wood off the tee in order to stay short of the trouble and thought she was safe. Sorenstam knew otherwise. The Swede thought of taking a seven-wood and then thought again.

"I fancied I could take a driver, hit it down the middle and make a birdie," she said. She described the shot she unleashed as her key stroke of the tournament. The ball stopped about 12 feet from the flag and, when the time came, she had two for the title.

Sorenstam said at the start of the week that she wanted to win 10 majors before calling it a day. Now she is only four away from that tally and closing in on a career as a chef after a practice run at Lake Nona last winter.

Though she talked about having realised more of her ambitions, there is another on the horizon. Having won two majors in the one summer and finished two shots away from the play-offs in the other two, she is now thinking in terms of achieving a Grand Slam of all four majors in one year.

She believes it can be done. There will not, though, be a second Colonial. "I had such a great week and playing was the right thing to do. But if I play with the men again, it will be in a `special' event, as opposed to a regular men's tour event," she said. If that was down to Vijay Singh, who said he hoped she would miss the cut, she was not about to say as much.

When someone suggested Sorenstam was responsible for record attendance of 21,610, she quickly maintained that the course had had as much to do with it.

In her eyes, it does wonders for the women to be playing a course that features on the men's Open rota.

Catrin Nilsmark, the European Solheim Cup captain, outlined her plans for the match against the Americans, which takes place in Sweden from September 12-14.

To start with, she made it clear that she would not follow in the footsteps of previous captains who allowed individuals like Laura Davies to practise in their own way. "I'm very keen that we should do things together," said Nilsmark, who recalled a situation in last year's match in which one of the Europeans wanted to drive her own car rather than travel in the team bus.

Nilsmark has talked to Sam Torrance about his captaincy methods and aims to emulate the Scot in being on the first tee for every one of her players. "You want to see your captain every time you tee off," said the Swede, who holed the winning putt in the 1992 instalment.

She was in trouble shortly after her captaincy was announced when she was overheard describing America's Cristie Kerr as "a spoilt brat" and Michele Redman as "not the most talented."

However, she says, cheerfully, that Patty Sheehan made it all square when she embarrassed the Europeans at last year's team dinner by introducing Kerr to the audience with a resounding, "This is the brat!"

Asked what the captaincy had done for her as a person so far, Nilsmark, whose team will be decided on August 25, came up with a deli<147,2,7>cious insight into the women's game. "I'm enjoying it more when others are playing well," she said, wryly. "It makes me feel like a better person."

The scores (Women British Open at 6,038-yard, 5,494m, par-72, Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club): Annika Sorenstam $254,880, 68-72-68-70 — 278, Se Ri Pak $159,300, 69-69-69-72 — 279, Grace Park $99,563, 74-65-71-70 — 280, Karrie Webb $99,563, 67-72-70-71 — 280, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc $71,685, 70-69-67-76 — 282, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman $58,941, 73-71-68-71 — 283, Wendy Ward $58,941, 67-71-69-76 — 283, Sophie Gustafson $50,976, 73-69-71-71 — 284, Young Kim $46,197, 73-70-72-70 — 285, Gloria Park $39,825, 70-75-69-72 — 286, Candie Kung $39,825, 73-71-69-73 — 286.

Copyright, Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2003

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