Rout secures 10th win in major

Sorenstam beats Hurst by 4 shots in Open playoff

July 04, 2006|By RANDALL MELL

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Move over, Babe and Tiger.

Annika Sorenstam is moving alongside in the record books.

After a grueling week of golf, Sorenstam made winning the 61st U.S. Women's Open look easy in yesterday's 18-hole playoff with Pat Hurst.

Sorenstam claimed her 10th victory in a major championship, moving her into a tie for fourth on the LPGA list with Babe Zaharias. It also equals the number of majors won by Tiger Woods, who has teased his friend and Orlando, Fla., neighbor about trailing him.

With a 1-under-par 70, Sorenstam defeated Hurst by four shots at Newport Country Club. It was the second largest margin of victory in this championship's 10-playoff history, the largest in 50 years.

The rout was so thorough, Hurst asked Sorenstam whether she would autograph a ball for her at day's end as they walked up the 18th fairway.

"Just like everybody else, they want a signed ball, so do I," Hurst said.

Sorenstam, 35, trails only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13) and Louise Suggs (11) in major championships won by women.

"I felt like I really, really worked hard to earn this," said Sorenstam, who played 72 holes in three days, 90 in four. "I have never grinded so much in my life. Every shot really had a purpose."

After winning the Masters last year, Woods sent a text message to Sorenstam about moving one ahead of her in total majors won.

Sorenstam said she had no plans to return volley with a text message of her own.

"I don't know if I have to remind him," she said. "He's been calling me every day cheering me on, which is sweet of him. I think he's on vacation."

It is Sorenstam's third U.S. Women's Open title, but it was particularly satisfying because the Swedish-born LPGA Hall of Famer was just sworn in as a U.S. citizen two weeks ago. Also, it was her first U.S. Women's Open title in a decade. Although she has won most everything in golf of late, the U.S. Women's Open has eluded her since she won it in 1995 and then again a year later.

The victory is Sorenstam's second of this season. After winning her first start at the MasterCard Classic in Mexico in March, she was winless in her next eight starts. When she missed the cut at the Michelob Ultra Open in May, her first missed cut in a non-major in 12 years, speculation grew that she had lost some of her magic.

"I think the way my season started, it was a little up and down and I was determined to change that," Sorenstam said.

Sorenstam's four-shot win was the largest in a U.S. Women's Open playoff since Kathy Cornelius routed Barbara McIntire, 82-75, in 1956.

Her victory margin actually seemed larger as Hurst never pushed her. Sorenstam went up by two shots at the first hole, dropping a wedge to 6 feet and making birdie while Hurst missed an 8-foot putt for par.

When Hurst missed a 2-footer and made double bogey at the sixth hole, Sorenstam moved four shots ahead. The lead was five at the turn and six through 12 holes.

In a week during which fog, gusting winds and wet, mucky turf created challenging scoring conditions, Newport Country Club laid down its defenses yesterday. Still, Hurst, 37, struggled. She didn't make her first birdie until ramming in a 40-foot putt from off the green at the 18th hole.

"Bogeying the first hole, three-putting like that, my confidence was obviously a little down," Hurst said.

Randall Mell writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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