Annika: Preparation requires balance
Former LPGA star Annika Sorenstam remembers the balancing act required in playing a tournament the week before a major championship.
"I wanted to play an event before if possible, because you wouldn't want to be rusty going into a major," Sorenstam said. "As far as thinking ahead, though, you have to have your mind on the shots you're playing.
"And sometimes I think we all get so caught up in the majors that [when] we get there -- and have been hyping it up for too long -- we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform."
The LPGA Tour finished its second major, the LPGA Championship, on June 9. It starts the third major, the U.S. Women's Open, on June 27. In between there was an off week, and now a 54-hole event that begins Friday: the NW Arkansas Championship.
Most of the tour's top players will be in action this week in Rogers, Ark., including world No. 1 Inbee Park and No. 2 Stacy Lewis, the local favorite who graduated from Arkansas. Park won the first two majors of 2013.
Sorenstam, meanwhile, may be retired from the tour, but will be getting her clubs out to practice a little this week, too. No, she's not returning for one more chance at the Women's Open. She's playing in the CVS Caremark Charity Classic, held June 23-25 at Rhode Island Country Club.
The smallest state, incidentally, was the site of Sorenstam's third and final Women's Open victory, in 2006 at Newport Country Club. Sorenstam, who has 10 major championships overall, left the LPGA Tour after the 2008 season. She said she really doesn't play much at all these days.
"I'm not a social golfer," she said. "But I do like to play in charity events, because I'm in a position to help out and give back. But when it comes to being competitive and putting together a really good score, that's not my mode anymore. I don't practice, so I can't expect it."
Sorenstam, 42, was happy to see the fine play at the LPGA Championship by someone older than she: Scotland's Catriona Matthew, 43, finished second after falling in a playoff to Park.
"It was impressive," Sorenstam said of Matthew, one of her former Solheim Cup teammates. "She juggles having two kids and playing. She has a simple swing, not a lot of movement going on. And she has experience. I remember she won the British Open [in 2009] when she'd just had her second child. I think she just loves the game, and when she can make a few putts, she can be up there."
But can Matthew or any other European win the Women's Open? Sorenstam is the only European player to do so in the past 15 years, and one of just five who have ever won it.
The top European on the tour now is Norway's Suzann Pettersen, who is No. 2 on the money list and third in the world rankings. Pettersen is coming off a very good final round of the LPGA Championship, a 65 that left her tied for third. She has one victory this season.
"She has the game, and she's having a good year," Sorenstam said. "I'm not really sure why the Europeans haven't done well [at the Women's Open]. Liselotte Neumann [of Sweden] won it in '88, and that was kind of my inspiration."
Sorenstam will be on hand to do some television commentary at the Women's Open after playing in the CVS charity event. She has not played the Sebonack course on Long Island that will host the first Women's Open in the greater New York area since 1987.
"But I've heard wonderful things, and I've seen it," she said. "It looks amazing."