Sorenstam Goes Wire-to-Wire at U.S. Senior Women's Open
August 2, 2021
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Aug. 1, 2021) -- Annika Sorenstam steadily pulled away from her closest pursuer, fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann, to capture the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in her championship debut. Sorenstam, who turned 50 last Oct. 9, closed with a 4-under-par 68 on Sunday to complete 72 holes at 12-under 276 and post an eight-stroke victory over Neumann, who finished with a 2-over 74, in the third edition of the championship at Brooklawn Country Club.
“It’s really hard to describe,” said Sorenstam of winning her fourth USGA championship, after U.S. Women’s Open victories in 1995, 1996 and 2006. “When we came here, I just loved the place from the start. Everything felt so good, and then obviously you have to go out there and finish it up, and today I really felt like I played very, very well. To come in here on Sunday knowing what I had to do and I did it, obviously I'm very happy.”
Neumann eagled the opening hole of the day, a 435-yard par 5, which briefly tied Sorenstam at 8 under, but Sorenstam converted her own birdie putt on the same green to edge back in front by one stroke. The margin stayed at one for just one hole. Neumann bogeyed Nos. 3, 5 and 8, while Sorenstam made five consecutive pars and back-to-back birdies on the par-5 seventh and eighth holes to extend her advantage to six strokes.
“I figured I had to shoot at least 5-, 6-under,” said Neumann. “That was kind of my number in my head, and starting out so good with eagling the first hole, I was like, OK, let’s go. But slowly my game just kind of… just way too many mistakes. I couldn’t give her a fight.”
When Neumann bogeyed the par-3 10th and Sorenstam rolled home a 20-foot birdie putt, the margin was eight and the closing holes became something of a coronation. Sorenstam’s total of 276 tied Laura Davies’ record total from the inaugural championship at Chicago Golf Club, when Davies, of England defeated Juli Inkster by a 10-stroke margin. It completed a wire-to-wire victory, with Sorenstam sharing the lead after Round 1 (at 67, with Dana Ebster) and then holding the sole advantage the rest of the way.
Neumann finished solo second, with Davies one stroke farther back after a closing 71. Yuko Saito, of Japan, and Catriona Matthew, of Scotland, tied for fifth place at 2-under 286. Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port and Martha Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, shared low-amateur honors at 6-over 294, in a tie for 20th place.
Neumann, the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion, shot 71 on Saturday to trim Sorenstam’s lead from three strokes to two, after Annika shot an even-par 72. Sorenstam had missed six fairways on Saturday, an uncharacteristic ball-striking effort, and she returned to the practice tee with her family on Saturday evening.
“After the round, we took a little break and then we went out and I got a little support,” said Sorenstam of daughter Ava, 11, son Will, 10, and husband Mike McGee, who caddied for her. “Ava kept telling me, ‘When you hit a shot tomorrow, Mommy, don't have anything in your mind.’ And then Will told me to believe that I can do it, and Mike said, ‘Just go out there and enjoy.’ I got a lot of good pointers. Sometimes you don’t know if kids listen to what you say, but a lot of these words I feel like they’ve come out of my mouth to them and now I’m getting it back. I’ve got to live my own lessons.”
This week, Sorenstam provided a lesson in hard work to her children, her fans and her fellow competitors.
What the Champion Receives
A gold medal, $180,000 in prize money and custody of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Trophy for one year;
An exemption into the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club;
An exemption into the U.S. Senior Women’s Open through age 65.
Sorenstam led the field with 62 out of 72 greens hit in regulation, one ahead of Juli Inkster (who finished T10) and five ahead of Alfredsson (T7). Laura Davies led the way in average driving distance (258.6 yards) while Sorenstam was second (238.1). Neumann led the way in putting with 116 putts for the week, just ahead of Karen Weiss and Sue Ginter with 117 (Sorenstam tied for 24th with 128 putts).
Co-low amateurs Ellen Port and Martha Leach were among the seven amateurs to make the 36-hole cut, out of 33 amateurs who began the championship, and they earn spots into next year’s championship, to be played Aug. 25-28 at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, both as co-low amateurs as well as being among the top 20 finishers. Lara Tennant, the two-time defending U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, finished five strokes farther back at 11-over 299.
Trish Johnson made a hole-in-one on the 160-yard fifth hole on Sunday with a 7-iron, the third ace in U.S. Senior Women’s Open history. Johnson, co-runner-up with Juli Inkster to Helen Alfredsson in the 2019 championship at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, closed with an even-par 72 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 15th at 4-over 292.
For the third straight time, an international player won this championship, after Laura Davies (England, 2018) and Helen Alfredsson (Sweden, 2019). Kris Tschetter was the low U.S. player for the week, finishing solo sixth at 1-over 289, just ahead of Alfredsson and Americans Christa Johnson and Kim Williams, who tied for seventh.
“When I turned 50, we had a discussion. I said, do you want to see Mama play? And they said, ‘Yeah, we want to see Mama play.’ I said, to do that I have to put in some time. You can’t just go out there and compete with the women out here. They have seen me hitting the balls, they’ve seen me go out there and really put sweat and tears into it, so it’s really paid off. Without them this would not really happen. It’s certainly a team effort.” – Annika Sorenstam, on the commitment it took to win the championship.
“Having my son caddie for me and my family out here, it means a lot to a lot of us gals who were on tour and started our families afterward. They don't know us as players. To be able to have this opportunity, be in an environment like this where they can go, ‘This is cool, what you did a long time ago before me,’ and have them share it, it’s super meaningful.” – Karen Weiss, who matched Annika Sorenstam for the day’s low round at 68, on what this championship means.
“Actually Jeremy [Ostrom], who’s our head pro, he called last night and left me a voicemail saying, ‘Sorry, I put you on the schedule for Tuesday. We need you at 4 in the morning because we got a junior tournament,’ and I’m thinking, Seriously? I go, OK, I'll be there. And then he called me and told me, ‘I’m just kidding.’” – Dana Ebster, on returning to her job at Turlock (Calif.) Golf and Country Club.
“I think I had just gone bogey the previous hole. Honest to God, playing this game, one minute you’re up here, next minute down there. Half the time I’m thinking, Oh, pack it in, this game. I flippin’ hate it. I’m useless. And then the next, Oh, that was a good shot.” – Trish Johnson, on making an ace on the fifth hole.
“Cracking week. Course was great. The greens were tough but fair, and a great champion in Annika, and she’s won by a fair old way. I thought she looked like the Annika of old, and she’s proven it. After Day 1, I knew we were all in trouble.” – Laura Davies, who finished third.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.