Annika Sorenstam again proved why she’s a legend in the women’s game as she shot a final-round, 4-under 68 for an eight-stroke victory over fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann in the third U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield.
Sorenstam tied the tournament-record, 12-under 276 total carded by Laura Davies in the inaugural event in 2018 when she won by a record 10 strokes and then finished third on Sunday.
The all-time legend continued to put on a clinic Sunday in her U.S. Senior Women’s Open debut, only her second start since retiring from the LPGA 13 years ago with 72 victories, including 10 majors.
Still, there was pressure on the personable and brilliant Swede, who was a prohibitive favorite despite such limited competitive play for more than a decade thanks to emphasis on the ANNIKA Foundation and other business ventures, many involved with junior players.
Sorenstam began the day with a two-stroke lead over Neumann, whose victory in the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open is credited by Annika with giving her the confidence to succeed as a professional. Neumann made eagle 3 on the first hole to temporarily tie for the top, but Sorenstam birdied the hole, the first of three in the opening eight holes, and cruised to another memorable victory after Neumann made three bogeys in the same span.
Making it extra special was her caddie was husband Mike McGee, the son of four-time PGA Tour winner Jerry McGee, who died in March at the age of 77. And the couple were followed by daughter Ava and son Will, an avid golfer and inspiration for mom to come out of retirement in May to play in the Gainbridge LPGA at the family’s home course, Lake Nona Country Club in Orlando, Fla.
Fittingly, the Sorenstam clan walked up part of the 18th fairway together with other spectators, who were allowed to join the players by the U.S. Golf Association. And Annika and Mike shared a brief kiss and the kids celebrated with friends as the crowd surrounding the 18th green gave her a rousing ovation.
Sorenstam narrowly missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to break Davis’ tournament record, and after Neumann made a 4-foot par putt to take sole second, the Swedes embraced before Sorenstam was showered with confetti, hugged by her family and friends and then waved to the responsive spectators as she walked to sign her card.
Turns out at least some of the victory originated after a third-round 72 on Saturday, when Sorenstam missed six fairways, an uncharacteristic ball-striking effort, and then returned to the practice tee with her family.
“After the round, we took a little break and then we went out and I got a little support,” Sorenstam said of Mike, Ava, 11, and Will, 10.
“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.”
Failing to break Davies’ tournament records hardly mattered considering what had happened around Sorenstam for four more glorious days on the golf course thanks to usually strong support from her family.
“It’s really cool to come back to the USGA because it has such a special spot in my heart,” Sorenstam said. “I wanted to play because I wanted to support women’s golf and it was a family affair.
“Golf is not my priority any more, so it’s nice to be able to relax and feel no pressure. I want it to show kids that if they work hard and follow their dreams that anything is possible.”
Sorenstam then capped her latest success with a “family portrait” photo on the 18th green with her trophy, gold medal, Mike, Ava and Will.