'Nobody is going to give it to you': Annika Sorenstam carries two-stroke lead into final round of U.S. Senior Women's Open

Surrounded by family, including her two children, Annika Sorenstam will play for her first major title in years on Sunday.

'Nobody is going to give it to you': Annika Sorenstam carries two-stroke lead into final round of U.S. Senior Women's Open

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – As Annika Sorenstam signed golf balls after speaking with the press late Saturday afternoon, son Will asked if he could have one. Of all the fans walking down the fairways of Brooklawn Country Club at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, children Will and Ava make this particular major unlike any of the rest.

Sorenstam left the LPGA 13 years ago to start a family and a build a new business with husband Mike McGee. The records they’ve read about in books (Will loves stats), and the hardware that packs the home trophy case are evidence of one of the greatest careers in LPGA history. But now, Will and Ava get to watch mom battle for a major championship in real time with dad on the bag. And, in many ways, they’re watching vintage Annika.

“It’s like she’s never been away,” said Laura Davies, who played alongside Sorenstam in the first two rounds. “It’s incredible.”

Annika Sorenstam gets a hug from her son, Will, before she tees off during the third round at the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn. on Saturday, July 31, 2021. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Going into the final round, Sorenstam, 50, holds a two-shot lead over Liselotte Neumann, who provided a source of inspiration for a young Sorenstam when Neumann became the first Swedish player to win the U.S. Women’s Open in 1988.

Sorenstam battled to an even-par 72 on Saturday to stay at 8 under for the championship. Neumann’s 71 put her at 6 under, and 2021 European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew sits in solo third at 4 under. Both Davies and Japan’s Yuko Saito share fourth, six shots back.

Sorenstam preached the positives after the round and said she wasn’t going to over-analyze.

“You got to let it happen,” said Sorenstam of any pressure she’s feeling. “Nobody is going to give it to you. You got to go out there and earn it. Every shot you got to earn it, make the putts, hit the fairway, the green, and that’s what it takes to score out here.”

She leads the field in greens in regulation at 85 percent and ranks third in driving distance (241.0) behind Helen Alfredsson (241.1) and Davies (268.4). Several missed tee shots put her out of place in Round 3. She also felt like she lost her feel early on in the round.

How do weekend nerves compare to winning on the LPGA in her last year on tour in 2008?

“I used to know what I would be feeling, what to do,” she said. “Now I’m having all kinds of feelings, up and down, and it just ­– you know, I just don’t really know what’s coming.”

Annika Sorenstam plays her tee shot at the 17th hole during the third round at the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn. on Saturday, July 31, 2021. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

While Sorenstam played in a handful of tour events and pro-ams leading up to this week, Neumann, 55, said she’s only played in the Southern California Open in the past 18 months, a two-round event at La Costa in which she tied for sixth. While it’s tough replicating competition back home, she’s relishing the opportunity of playing in the final group alongside Sorenstam.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Neumann. “I just love golf and love to compete. It’s just the most fun thing we can do being out here, and being able to be in the last group, it’s pretty special.”

Davies, the inaugural champion of this event, put together the day’s best round of 68 after a nightmare of a day on the greens on Friday. She brought two putters with her to Fairfield and put the second one in play on the weekend.

“Every time I step on these greens I’m terrified because they’re good and tricky,” she said. “They’re a really true surface. You feel like you should hole lots of putts because they’re so pure, and yet when you’re – I’m not going to say the word yip because that too extreme.

“My hands were stopping and wasn’t getting it online. So, yeah, it’s pretty miserable when you know you’re hitting it pretty well tee-to-green, and you know when you get on the green best result is going to be a two-putt.”

Thankfully, she had options.

Matthew, who, like Sorenstam is making her debut in the USSWO this year, hadn’t competed since the AIG Women’s British Open at Royal Troon until she teed it up in an LET event in London earlier this month. While the mother of two didn’t exactly miss tour life, she was looking forward to the chance at competing for another major title.

“As my kids said, I’ve got a chance of winning this one,” said a grinning Matthew. She’ll play in Spain next week on the LET, followed by the AIG Women’s British Open at Carnoustie.

Sorenstam won 72 times on the LPGA, including 10 majors. A victory tomorrow at Brooklawn would give her an exemption into the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles next year, site of Sorenstam’s 1996 Women’s Open victory.

Not that one of the game’s greatest champions will be getting ahead of herself.

“I have a lot of positive things going around,” she said. “My family is here, being here at the Open, playing in the last group. I love the golf course. I feel the love from the fans. Just having a good round.

“I mean, it really doesn’t get much better.”

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Golfers embracing Olympic experience; would tournament benefit from format change?

A dichotomy presents itself in Olympic golf. Players are part of a "team" but it's still an individual competition.

Golfers embracing Olympic experience; would tournament benefit from format change?

KAWAGOE, Japan — As Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy, grouped together for the first two rounds of the men’s Olympic golf stroke play tournament, walked the final fairways during Friday’s second round, they were chatting.

The topic of conversation revolved around the Olympic sports they watched growing up.

Morikawa took to the prime-time events of swimming and gymnastics during his youth. Even though he watches equestrian only every few years, McIlroy couldn’t hold back his excitement for the first night of individual and team dressage.

“It’s mesmerizing,” McIlroy said.

The Olympics were never much of a professional goal for the golfers, because golf wasn’t on the Olympic program from 1904 until 2016.

“I think it’ll probably hit me once the tournament is over,” Morikawa said of being an Olympian. “No one can take that away from you.

“Whether it changes our career or not, put that aside,” he added. “It just changes who you are.”

Heading into the Games, McIlroy had been largely indifferent in his comments. He’s quickly changed his tune. Being part of an event that’s completely different and bigger than McIlroy and golf in general has been “a pretty cool thing.”

“I didn’t know if this going to (be) my only Olympics I play,” he said, “and I’m already looking forward to Paris.”

So is Morikawa, even if Paris 2024 feels distant. If he qualifies, “I’ll definitely be going.”

Embracing the Olympic experience

Great Britain’s Paul Casey became contemplative when asked about his experience at the Games. He’s staying in the Olympic Village and is “absolutely loving it.” He said the Village has been so wonderful to him he convinced Norway’s Viktor Hovland to move in.

Paul Casey of Great Britain plays his shot from the first tee during the third round of the Men’s Individual Stroke Play on day eight of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on July 31, 2021 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

“It couldn’t be any better. For me, it’s hard to describe. Our tournament’s only just begun. Yeah, I’m going to have to digest it and probably talk about it afterwards, but it’s just been amazing,” Casey said.

He’s one of a few from Great Britain sleeping in a suite, not exactly similar to the accommodations he’s accustomed to on the PGA Tour. A group of rowdy partiers in the building next to him were at it deep into the night before the tournament. Instead of complaining, he took videos on his phone.

“I don’t even own a (clothing) iron this week,” he said. “Doing laundry that’s out on the balcony, all these things, it’s great.”

At the course, there is disappointment that no fans are permitted to attend, especially after 32,000 fans per day attended Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, for a “proper” Open Championship, as Ireland’s Shane Lowry put it.

“As far as the magnitude of the event, it feels big. It’s hard,” said Lowry. “It just feels like another tournament to me. I’m out there trying to shoot the best score I can. I don’t know whether that’s me playing it down in my own head or trying to do that. I do think if I did manage to win a medal, it would be a really big deal back home.”

Casey said the jovialness that could be felt in a playing group at another tournament, even a major, was absent. Caddies aren’t handing bags to players other than their own, for example. The entire field is “all-in” and they’re all aware of what the gold medal means to 2016 Olympic champion Justin Rose, Casey’s compatriot.

“This is being an athlete, being a global athlete,” he said. “What an honor to sort of have a chance to win a gold. This might be the only chance I get. I’ll have other chances at majors.”

Would format change be good for Olympic golf?

A dichotomy presents itself in Olympic golf. Players are part of a “team” — they wear the same uniform and compete under the same flag — but it’s still an individual competition. Only one person receives a spot on each of the three podiums.

“It’s tough, because it is a team sport, but we’re here as individuals,” Morikawa said. “There’s no ‘team, A-plus job’ here.”

If the International Golf Federation shifted to a different format that relied on team play, the body would have to change current qualifying rules that dictate the top 60 in the Olympic qualifying rankings earn spots, with a maximum of two per country. The U.S. sent four because it has several players in the top-15; if a country has four players in the top-15, it can send that many.

Morikawa is down for team play at the Olympics. He’s not sure how it would work, though.

“You look at the top 15 guys in the world, there’s a lot of us (Americans),” he said. “How do you decide two guys versus four? Or how do you decided whatever the numbers are for other countries?”

Match play has been mentioned as an alternative. That would be good for television ratings, Morikawa said, but there’s also a chance a chunk of the top players in the world could be sent home after the first day of play. Stroke play gives everyone the best chance to medal, he said.

“You can’t put us in one-day qualifiers and hope all the best get through, like swimming,” he said.

A team aspect already exists in some form, Lowry said, in the effort to produce medals for Team Ireland between he and McIlroy. They’ve dined together every night, played practice rounds as pairs and travel to the course in tandem.

But it’s not like they were helping each other out too much while paired together for the third round.

“We’ll be out there competing against each other, but it’d be nice to be playing with a friend and a really good golfer,” he said.

“I’ve always said it would have been nice if it was a team event,” Lowry added, “particularly because I would have got to play with Rory.”

How about a combination of stroke and match?

“It’d be too many rounds,” Lowry said. “I don’t know, I think it’s good the way it is. Four-round stroke I think is the proper form of golf. Let’s be honest, it generally determines the best golfer of the week.”

Source : Golf Week More   

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