Sorenstam stages Women's repeat Record 8-under total gives Swede 6-shot win

June 03, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Everything seems easy in Annika Sorenstam's golf game. She hits the fairways with remarkable consistency and is in a tranquil frame of mind when she reaches the green.

Even though she knew she was on her way to history yesterday at the 51st U.S. Women's Open, Sorenstam's disposition suggested she was taking a casual walk in the park.

Sorenstam, 25, a native of Sweden, played the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club course yesterday better than anyone else and became the sixth woman in the history of the Open to successfully defend her title, winning by six shots. Mickey Wright, Donna Caponi, Susie Maxwell Berning, Hollis Stacy and Betsy King are the other repeaters.

Sorenstam accomplished the feat in grand fashion. She shot a 4-under-par 66 for a 72-hole total of 272 that set a scoring record of 8-under par in the most prestigious tournament in women's golf.

The previous record of 277 was set by another Swede, Liselotte Neumann, in 1988 at the par-71 Five Farms course of Baltimore Country Club and was matched by Patty Sheehan in 1994 at the Indianwood course in Lake Orion, Mich.

"To win once is wonderful, to win it twice is more than wonderful," said Sorenstam, who earned $212,500.

Sorenstam hit 51 of 56 fairways and averaged 29 putts a round on the undulating greens that generally slope to the sides, the unmistakable signature of Donald Ross, the designer of Pine Needles. Despite the difficulty of the greens, Sorenstam registered an eagle and four birdies to go with two bogeys for her 66.

Kris Tschetter, who started the day at 2-over, matched Sorenstam's 66 and finished alone in second place with a total of 278 that earned her $125,000, the biggest check of her career. Tschetter had five birdies and a bogey.

Tied for third at 280 were Brandie Burton and two former winners of the tournament, Pat Bradley and Jane Geddes. Bradley shot 69, Geddes shot 70 and Burton, who played with Sorenstam the past two days, shot 71.

Sorenstam started the day with a three-shot lead over Burton, and she increased the lead to four shots when Burton bogeyed the par-4 second and both birdied the par-3 third, Sorenstam with a four-footer.

Another bogey by Burton, on the par-3 fifth, and a birdie by Sorenstam on the 327-yard eighth gave Sorenstam a six-shot lead after eight holes, but Burton narrowed the gap to five with a birdie on the par-4 ninth.

The worst was yet to come for everyone with hopes of catching the Swede, who seemed to enjoy herself in the perfect Carolina sunshine.

Sorenstam flashed her widest smile on the green of the 440-yard par-5 10th, the easiest hole in the tournament. She reached the green from 222 yards with her 3-wood and made a 25-footer for eagle to the dismay of Burton, who could do no better than par.

"Whatever I did there I couldn't believe it," Sorenstam said of her eagle.

The eagle gave Sorenstam a seven-shot lead over Burton and everyone else in the field. A temporary lapse of bogeys at 13 and 14 was corrected quickly with birdies on 15 and 16, where she hit the pin from the tee on the 172-yard par-3.

Sorenstam kept smiling, until she started to cry on the last green after she saved par to seal her triumph.

"I won last year because Meg faltered," Sorenstam said of her rally from a five-shot deficit to get past Meg Mallon. "This year I won because I played well, and that means a lot more."

Pub Date: 6/03/96

Doubling up

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Winners of consecutive U.S. Women's Opens:

Player .. .. .. .. .. .. Years

Mickey Wright . .. . 1958, '59

Donna Caponi .. .. . 1969, '70

Susie Berning . .. . 1972, '73

Hollis Stacy .. .. . 1977, '78

Betsy King . .. .. . 1989, '90

Annika Sorenstam . . 1995, '96

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