Annika Sorenstam’s stomach was doing flips when she woke up Sunday thinking about defending her U.S. Women’s Open championship.
“When I came in this morning I had a little stomachache, butterflies all over,” she said after shooting a 66 and shattering the Open record with a 72-hole total of 8-under-par 272 for a six-stroke victory over Kris Tschetter. “I wanted to do it so badly.”
The emotion of the day, the week and the year since she won for the first time in the United States at the Open last year finally caught up with her when her par putt on No. 18 fell.
She raised both hands over her head, her eyes filled with tears and she struggled for the first time to keep her composure.
“It was a dream come true again,” she said, choking back the sobs.
Later, with more time to reflect, she grasped the magnitude of what she had done.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to win this championship,” Sorenstam said. “Once was wonderful. To win it twice was more than wonderful. I will never forget this place.”
Tschetter was second at 2-under-par 278. Brandie Burton, Jane Geddes and crowd favorite Pat Bradley matched par of 280.
“I knew that Annika needed to falter,” Tschetter said. “But that’s just not something that Annika does very often. I kept saying to myself, ‘What golf course is she playing?”
Sorenstam certainly showed Greg Norman how to do it. Given a big lead going into the final round, she played with the same precision she had all week - hitting fairways and greens and making putts.
And when the lead started to grow she shifted into a more conservative mode, unlike Norman on Sunday at Augusta when he squandered a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo.
“I was aiming a little more for the middle of the greens,” she said. “I figured I’m not the one who has to make birdies out here.”
But she made a bunch of birdies - and an eagle.
Sorenstam’s score bettered the 7-under 277 shot by Liselotte Neumann in 1988 and Patty Sheehan in 1994. And it made her only the sixth woman the win back-to-back Opens.
Bradley, the 45-year-old winner of the 1981 U.S. Open, started five shots back and fell to six on the second hole. And Laura Davies got as close as three strokes but her final round 69 was simply not enough.
Tschetter’s run came a little too late. She started the day six back and when she birdied No. 16 right after Sorenstam bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14, she was within four of the lead.
But Sorenstam ended matters moments later with a birdie on No. 15 and then nearly holed her tee shot on the par-3 16th, the ball hitting the pin and dropping to 7 feet from the cup.
“I didn’t wear my contacts today,” Sorenstam said. “So I couldn’t see it. They told me it hit the stick.”
Sorenstam won this tournament the way Opens are won: with pinpoint accuracy and a steady hand on the slick, sloping greens.
She hit 51 of 56 fairways for the tournament - best in the field - was third in greens hit in regulation and averaged 29 putts per round and needed only 27 putts Sunday.
“All my shots went straight and my putts went in,” she said. “I felt like I could close my eyes and make it.”
Sorenstam was the first woman to successfully defend her Open title since Betsy King in 1990. And she joined King, Hollis Stacy, Donna Caponi, Mickey Wright and Susie Berning as the only women with back-to-back U.S. Open titles.
Five men - Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Curtis Strange, Ralph Guldahl and John McDermott - won consecutive Opens. Willie Anderson is the only person to win three straight (1903-05) Open titles. Hogan won in 1948, didn’t play in ‘49 because of a car accident and won again in 1950-51.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LEADERBOARD Final scores of the U.S. Women’s Open: Annika Sorenstam 70-67-69-66-272 Kris Tschetter 70-74-68-66-278 Pat Bradley 74-70-67-69 280 Jane Geddes 71-69-70-70-280 Brandie Burton 70-70-69-71-280
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