Annika Sorenstam is back in field at U.S. Open at 51


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SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Annika Sorenstam found herself somewhat distracted during the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open, but it had little to do with the rousing ovations the 10-time major champion received throughout her opening 18 holes or even the stifling heat index that gripped Pine Needles by the time she had finished playing.

The three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion instead was trying to locate her family to make sure they were staying hydrated and protecting themselves from the oppressive elements at the season’s second major championship.

Those concerns were not anywhere on Sorenstam’s radar when she won her second of three U.S. Women’s Open titles in 1996 at Pine Needles in a runaway, finishing eight strokes in front of her closest pursuer and as the only player in the field with a final score in red numbers (8-under-par 272).

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“Yeah, I wasn’t worried about them,” Sorenstam said when asked to compare her experience Thursday to 1996. “Now it’s like I worry about my husband. I worry about the kids. Are they drinking, and then do my kids have enough sunblock? There’s a lot of thoughts going on.”

Which is just fine with Sorenstam, who at 51 is at peace with her current place in the game as an ambassador as well as a mentor to younger players, especially those from Sweden such as Ingrid Lindblad, 22, who played with Sorenstam and is one shot off the lead after the first round; Linnea Johansson, 28; and Madelene Sagstrom, 29.

Not even a round of 3-over 74 that left Sorenstam in a tie for 87th place in the field of 156 fazed the eight-time LPGA player of the year (a record) and the tour’s career leader in earnings. Sorenstam’s 90 victories around the world are the most in women’s golf history.

Sorenstam announced in 2008 she would be stepping away from competitive golf after that season. Her last professional tournament in a non-senior event came in December 2008 at the Dubai Ladies Masters on the European tour. She finished tied for seventh place.

U.S. Women’s Open leader board

“I don’t get as mad as I used to,” Sorenstam said. “I kind of bounce off it. By the end of the day the kids want to do something. I probably have to cook dinner, just all those things I enjoy doing off the golf course. I can’t get upset anymore. It’s just great to be here and enjoy.”

Sorenstam qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open by winning last year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn. Her score of 12 under was eight strokes better than runner-up and fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann.

“It’s amazing to have Annika competing,” said American Lexi Thompson, ranked sixth in the world. “It’s great to have role models like her.”

So comfortable is Sorenstam that she accompanied her son, Will, for a round of golf this week at the Cradle Short Course at nearby Pinehurst resort instead of devoting extended time to practice at Pine Needles.

Had she focused on her own game, she would have missed Will, 11, record the first ace of his career at the fifth hole.

“I’m a lot more content in my life,” said Sorenstam, who married her second husband, Mike McGee, in 2009 and with whom she has two children. “I’m not here to create a new career or start something new and make a mark for myself. I’m more here to enjoy what I’ve done and enjoy being invited to come here and play and kind of share it with my loved ones.”


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