Annika Sorenstam dominates to win U.S. Senior Women’s Open in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD — Sometimes, the script actually plays out the way it is supposed to.

The moment Annika Sorenstam decided she would play in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, she was considered the favorite. This was still months before she actually submitted an entry form.

One big reason why Sorenstam came back was to have her family see her compete. Her children were not alive when she was at the height of her powers, winning 10 major championships among her 72 LPGA Tour titles.

But they got to see what it was like at Brooklawn Country Club this weekend: the opposition not really having much of a chance against the best on a Sunday afternoon of a major championship.

Sorenstam shot a 4-under-par 68 to go wire-to-wire and coast to an 8-shot victory at the third U.S. Senior Women’s Open. It was her fourth USGA championship — Sorenstam won three U.S. Women’s Opens — but her first since 2006.

It was her first time she has competed in an USGA championship since 2008, when she abruptly retired at the top of her game to raise a family.

“With the kids walking the fairways, it truly is a dream come true,” Sorenstam said. “I wanted to support the ladies and support women’s golf, so I figured this is what I got to do. Coming back from 13 years was not easy.”

But Sorenstam made it look easy, as her fellow competitors noticed every time they looked up at a leaderboard.

“I thought after day one, I thought she would win,” said 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion Laura Davies, who placed third. “I thought she looked like the Annika of old, and she’s proven it. She had a bit of a stumble yesterday, but today was a pretty solid round. … Yeah, after day one I knew we were all in trouble.”

Davies was paired with Sorenstam the first two rounds. Runner-up Liselotte Neumann played with her all four days.

“What a career she’s had. She’s just been absolutely amazing, and it’s been really fun to follow her and just super proud to be walking down the fairways with her today. She deserved the win. She’s still a great player,” Neumann said.

The spectacular performance was reminiscent of another Hall of Famer in a USGA event played at Brooklawn CC nearly 35 years ago: Gary Player won the U.S. Senior Open by 6 over Doug Sanders in 1987. He shot in the 60s all four rounds.

Sorenstam had a misstep Saturday with an even par 72. But no one was able to catch her. Neumann trailed by two heading into Sunday and actually caught Sorenstam, albeit briefly.

Neumann eagled the par-5 first hole to tie Sorenstam, who birdied the hole a couple of minutes later.

Then Neumann bogeyed holes 3 and 5. Any type of drama ended on the eighth hole when Sorenstam made her second straight birdie and Neumann made bogey. The lead was six shots.

“It was nice to have a little lead. It was nice to have a little buffer, just knowing there’s some tough holes coming down the stretch,” Sorenstam said. “So yes, I enjoyed it, and just focusing on one shot at a time.”

Said Neumann: “I figured I had to go and shoot at least 5-, 6-under. That was kind of my number in my head, and starting out so good with eagling the first hole, I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ But slowly my game just kind of, I don’t know if I should say went into pieces, but just way too many mistakes and I didn’t putt well today at all.”

Once Sorenstam emailed her entry to play in the championship in May, the USGA made it public knowledge. A little over a month later, Sorenstam was at Brooklawn CC for Media Day. The people at Brooklawn CC knew losing out on hosting the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic likely was going to mean Sorenstam comes in 2021 once the USGA decided Brooklawn would get another chance to host it.

On Tuesday, Sorenstam held an ANNIKA Share My Passion Clinic for tri-state area girls. So yes, the pressure was on Sorenstam to win.

That “family affair” took place all weekend for the Sorenstans. Annika’s husband, Mike McGee, caddied all four days. The two were married shortly after Sorenstam retired.

Sorenstam’s children Will and Ava got to see their mom in action and were able to spray her with a confetti popper after she holed out on 18.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt I’m in a different time in my life. I’m very happy with my family, and that’s what means the most,” Sorenstam said. “I have a distance now from golf. Every shot doesn’t mean as much as it used to, even though I care, but I know by the end of the day I’ve got them, I’ve got the support and I’m living my life. I’m not going to let shots bother me as much.”

Sorenstam dodged questions about whether she would be back next year to defend her title, or whether she would keep playing even though she stated previously that this wasn’t going to be a comeback. So if your kids asked to see her compete again, would Sorenstam come back to play again?

“Mike is a great dad and a great supporter in a lot of ways, but I can’t just disappear,” Sorenstam said. “You know what, it’s not that important to me anymore. I’ve done that, and if they can’t be part of it and it’s not something we agree on, then I certainly won’t be. I look forward to putting on the mama hat this evening and then tomorrow morning I’ll put on the IGF (International Golf Federation) hat, so there’s a lot of hats to wear, so I want to make sure I do them all right.”

Yes Sorenstam has an early flight Monday morning to Tokyo. She is the president of The International Golf Federation. The women’s golf portion of the Olympics begins this week after the men concluded on Sunday.

So it remains to be seen when, or if, Sorenstam will tee it up competitively again. But the Hall of Famer showed she still has what it takes to win and do so by a large margin.; @nhrJoeMorelli