WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — It will take more than one good tournament for Annika Sorenstam to even begin to make a dent on Lorena Ochoa’s stranglehold on No. 1 in women’s golf.
At least now it looks possible.
Sorenstam conjured memories of the time when she was as dominant as Ochoa is now on Sunday, hitting every fairway and almost every green in a 66 that gave her a seven-shot victory in the Michelob Ultra Open with a tournament record 19-under 265.
“That’s the way I used to play,” Sorenstam said Sunday after following rounds of 64, 66 and 69 with one that looked to the players in her threesome to be as good as it gets.
“She hit a perfect iron shot every single hole,” Jeong Jang said. “Annika’s back.”
“It’s good to see that she is where she was when she was No. 1,” added Christina Kim, whose birdie on the final hole – and Jang’s bogey after missing a 1-foot putt – tied them with Allison Fouch and Karen Stupples. “It’s just – flawless is the best way to put it.”
It’s never flawless with Sorenstam, who believes it’s possible to make birdie at every hole in a round and shoot 54, but coming down the stretch she was close. She had five birdies on the back nine, including three in a row, and birdie putts on most every hole.
“That’s about as good as I can hit my iron shots,” she said. “Make a few more putts and get some distance on my drives and I’m going to tell you that’s as good as I can play.”
The victory was the Swede’s third in eight events, and in the process she also answered the doubters who said she was no threat to Ochoa, who has five wins already this year.
An eight-time player of the year, Sorenstam has a long way to go to get back to the top, but said she’ll try with a much different approach.
Before, she said, “I was just focusing on golf and, you know, that’s all I did. Now, I feel like I’m a more rounded person and have a better perspective on things.”
Sorenstam, who is planning a January wedding to fiance Mike McGee, has opened her own golf academy and also developed an appreciation for playing golf when her back didn’t let her.
“The last year, you know, going through what I did, you appreciate making cuts, you appreciate being in the top 10 and having a chance to win,” she said. “There’s so many players out here that I think when you step away for a while, you see it in a different light.”
Jang, too, saw things in a different way after missing a 1-foot putt on the final hole, costing her a second-place finish by herself and approximately $60,000.
“I was really happy – until the 18th hole,” she said.
Kim needed a birdie on the final hole to move into the four-way tie for second, while Fouch shot a closing 64 and Stupples had a 66 in her first Mother’s Day event as a mom.
Her son, Logan, was born April 21.
But the story was Sorenstam, who said this weekend she knew there were people that thought her best days were behind her. She also said she’d love to play her way back to No. 1.
She looked ready all day en route to her 72nd career victory.
Jang, playing with a sore wrist that she said has bothered her for more than a year, made a 15-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole to get within two. Sorenstam promptly hit her approach on the par-4 sixth to within 12 feet and made it to restore the three-shot edge.
When Jang chipped in from 40 yards on the par-4 ninth, Sorenstam left her long birdie putt just short, but hit her approach to within a few feet on No. 10 for another birdie.
By then, it was all but over. Sorenstam made sure with three consecutive birdies beginning on the par-3 13th, then another by hitting it close on the par-3 17th.
She was all smiles while waiting on the tee at the par-4 18th hole, where she snap-hooked her drive into the water on Saturday, one of only two mistakes that hurt her all weekend.
Besides Sorenstam, the day was remarkable for several other players.
Katherine Hull, who started the day tied for 21st, made the first double-eagle of the year when she hit a 3-wood 229 yards on the par-5 seventh, part of a 64 that lifted her into sixth. The best round of her career also included a double bogey at the par-4 10th.
And Shi Hyun Ahn, whose first three rounds were 71, 71 and 72, tied the course record with a 63, making nine birdies and eight pars before a bogey on the par-4 ninth, her last hole.