Annika Sorenstam & The 2006 U.S. Women’s Open in Newport
The U.S. Women’s Open is set to take place this weekend in Texas with South Korea’s Lee Jeong-eun seeking to defend her championship.
Throughout history, the Women’s Open has been played all over the country, including on multiple occasions in Massachusetts.
However, just once, has the tournament come to Rhode Island – and that was in 2006.
Setting Up the 2006 U.S. Open
The 2006 U.S. Open was played at Newport Country Club at the end of June.
The field featured legends and future legends such as Juli Inkster, Laura Davies, Paula Creamer, a young Michelle Wie, Lorena Ochoa and two time U.S. Open Champion Annika Sorenstam.
In total Newport fashion, the tournament was actually delayed by a day due to fog, so the first round started on Friday, as opposed to Thursday.
The final two rounds were played on Sunday.
The defending champion was Birdie Kim, however, she would miss the cut.
Heading into the 2006 U.S. Open, Sorenstam, now 36, was on top of the golf world, having won ten times in 2005, including two major championships.
However, 2006 proved to be a different season, as she had just one win on the season leading up to the U.S. Open and that came back in March.
She was winless in eight consecutive starts on the LPGA Tour, which raised some questions about her game.
In fact, she told Golf Today that she was unsure what was causing her lack of form.
So heading into the Open, a Sorenstam win did not seem likely.
That sentiment changed quickly.
Sorenstam fired a two-under par 69 in the first round to pull into a four way tie for the lead with Jane Park, Se Ri Pak and Pat Hurst.
Wie, and four others were one-shot behind them at one-under.
In the second round, Sorenstam shot an even par 71 to remain in a tie for the lead at two-under with Hurst, who also shot even par for the day.
Everyone else had dropped back to even par and one-over for the tournament.
Now, remember, the final two rounds were both played on the same day, Sunday. Meaning it was a 36-hole marathon to the trophy.
Sorenstam struggled in round three, firing a 73 to drop back to even par. However, due to tough conditions, everyone else dropped back as well.
At the conclusion of the round, Sorenstam was in a three-way tie for the lead with Wie and Brittany Lincicome at even par.
Juli Inkster was one shot back and Hurst was two shots back. The final round was shaping up to be an epic.
In the final round, Sorenstam trails Hurst by as much as two shots heading into the back nine, before Hurst came back down.
Both players finished even par for the tournament.
Meanwhile, Wie dropped back to two-over and Lincicome fell apart, positing a 78 in the final round.
That set up a playoff between Sorenstam and Hurst.
Entering the U.S. Open, Hurst was a relative unknown, with just four career wins, but one major, however, that came back in 1998.
Monday’s playoff would be the first 18-hole playoff at a U.S. Women’s Open since 2003 and just the tenth all time.
It would also be the last one, as the format was changed a couple of years later.
Wearing a white had and yellow shirt, Sorenstam took advantage right from the start, making a birdie on the opening hole to take a two-shot lead after Hurst made a bogey.
Hurst continued to make a mess of things, missing numerous short par putts along the way that could have put pressure on Sorenstam.
However, Sorenstam made the turn with a commanding five-shot lead.
Sorestam would apply pressure of her own by dropping a birdie putt on the 12th hole to take a six shot lead. She was two-under par for the round to that point.
Hurst would get one shot back, but the pair would par the next four holes, pretty much icing the tournament for Sorenstam.
On the 18th hole, Sorenstam was walking up to the green ahead of Hurst as fans began to applaud.
In true Annika fashion, she stopped a few yards short and waited for Hurst to catch up so that they would walk up together.
Hurst ended her round by dropping about a 50-foot birdie putt, while Sorenstam tapped in for par to win the tournament.
It would be her third U.S. Open Championship, and it came ten years after her first.
Sorenstam would win just one more time in 2006.
She would retire from competitive golf just two years later in 2008, but not before winning three times that season.
Sorenstam finished her career with 72 LPGA Tour wins and 94 total wins and ten major championships.
As GolfNewsRI reported, she was recently elected President of the International Golf Foundation.