Three-time U.S. Women's Open champion Annika Sorenstam is serving this week as the honorary chair of the 2011 U.S. Women's Open Championship at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. Sorenstam won her first tournament as a pro at the 1995 U.S. Women's Open, also held at the Broadmoor, and then went on to win two more Opens.
Sorenstam stepped away from competition to start a family and launch numerous new businesses, including the ANNIKA Academy in Orlando, Fla. LPGA senior writer Lisa Mickey caught up with Sorenstam before the start of this week's championship. Here's what the Hall of Famer had to say:
LPGA: How did it impact your career to make your first win the U.S. Women's Open Championship?
SORENSTAM: It certainly changed my career. All of a sudden, I was on the radar and people wanted to know "Who is this young lady from Sweden?" I was put in the limelight and it certainly kick-started my career. Also, it gave me a lot of confidence just to know that I could compete against the best players in the world and that I was on the right track. It was an important win.
LPGA: What memory stands out in your mind about that championship Sunday at The Broadmoor back in 1995?
SORENSTAM: I remember the last few holes and sitting in the clubhouse and in the TV tower waiting. The camera was on me. And then I remember flying back on Southwest Airlines. All of a sudden, I went from being somebody that nobody knew to being, "Here she is!" And then I got home and had all of these messages on the answering machine and all of a sudden I had to play in these events. Everything changed. That, I remember.
LPGA: What was your most difficult Open to win and to lose?
SORENSTAM: The one that I won in Newport [Rhode Island] in 2006 was the toughest - not just because we went to extra holes or one more day. I won the Open in '95 and '96 and I felt like, "Hey, I can win every U.S. Open," but I never did. I had a chance to win at Pumpkin Ridge [Golf Club] in 2003, and I pretty much threw that one away. I've been very, very close many times, but that was a hard one because I was battling a neck injury. Toward the end of your career, you start thinking, "Is this ever going to happen again?" And then I won another Open 10 years from the previous one [in 2006]. It just came together beautifully.
LPGA: The LPGA's four majors are so different. How would you characterize the U.S. Women's Open?
SORENSTAM: Well, the Open has been around for 66 years, so there's a history there. It's really one of the hardest championships because the golf course is always tricky. This week, we're talking about a par-71 golf course that's being played at over 7,000 yards. Who would have ever thought we would play a course that long? I think women's golf has come a long way. The Open is just a really grueling test - a true test.
LPGA: A lot of great players never win the Open. What does it take to win one of these championships?
SORENSTAM: It's a mixture of things. There's certainly a little luck. Patience is important more than anything and not thinking too far ahead. You have to play well and hit it decently off the tee. Accuracy is important along with a good short game. Really, you just have to be good all around. All the pieces have to come together that week. You can't just drive it well and think you can win an Open, and you can't just putt well because you've got the rough and the firm greens to deal with. I also think you have to know your clubs and know exactly how far you hit each club because you can't always be flying the ball at the pins. And we go to different courses every year at the Open. At the Kraft Nabisco Championship, you can get to know that course. The LPGA Championship also stays at one course, but for the Open, the courses change and are different each year.
LPGA: You're no longer playing on tour, but you just signed a new sponsorship agreement this week. What is your latest endorsement?
SORENSTAM: It's ADP and they've been in business for 60 years. They are the best in human resources, tax and compliance services, payroll and benefit administration. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I wouldn't have known anything about this, but we're a small business and we're growing, and we value the efficiency ADP can bring to us as business owners. They also help empower women in the business world and minorities in the workplace. You don't always see that nowadays. As a business owner, those are some of the things we look for.
LPGA: These are things you certainly weren't thinking about 16 years ago.
SORENSTAM: Exactly! This is not about club loft and lies, but this is something we value today. Obviously, I'm pleased that ADP sees the value I can bring to them with customer entertainment. People still love golf, and that's where I come in.