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U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP


July 3, 2006


Annika Sorenstam


NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, our 1995, 1996 and 2006 United States Women's Open Champion, Annika Sorenstam. It's been ten long years. What does it mean to you?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It means a lot. Like I said before, this is the championship that's always, in my opinion, been the biggest that we have on the schedule, and I've always since I was a little girl, just pretending I would have putts to win the U.S. Open.

When I came out on Tour I did it quickly, my first year and second year, and I said, wow, this is going to be great. I worked so hard to do it again, and it just never really happened. I was close a few times but could never get it done.

So to come here this week with not such a great season and then to win I think is pretty ironic, so obviously I'm very happy about that.

RHONDA GLENN: You seemed to be a woman on a mission this week.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I wanted to approach it like it was any other week, which is easier said than done. But, you know, I've won tournaments before, and I was just thinking, you know, let's pretend it's not the Open. Let's just come and play your own game and not think too much about the consequences of this championship, just go out there and enjoy yourself and hit the shots that you know you can and enjoy the course and all that good stuff and not think too much about the championship. I think I did pretty good.

Throughout the week I was talking to myself. It must have looked funny, but I said, "Just have fun, hit some shots, don't worry about it. Just hit the shots you need to and hit the fairways, hit the greens." I just kept saying that over and over again just to keep my mind focused on what I had to do.

RHONDA GLENN: A lot of winners in the excitement of the moment, crowd, walking up to the 18th green would have walked right on the green and waved at everyone, but you stood back and you waited for Pat Hurst to join you.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I thought that was the appropriate thing to do. You know, like I said out there, Pat played really well, to get in a playoff and then play another 18 holes I mean, I think nine holes, anything can happen that way. She's had a terrific week and I wanted her to share this with me. Even though I was the one that prevailed this particular time, she's taken every step that I have. I thought that was the good thing to do.

We had a good time today. She's obviously not happy the way she played, but I think she can take a lot of things out of this week, as well. We walked up to 18, and she said, "I'm getting goosebumps," and I said, "I agree, this is really cool," and we both smiled. Then she went on to make the putt, which is pretty funny.

Q. She said she asked you for a signed golf ball. How are you going to acknowledge that request?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, of course I'm going to give her one, but I said, "You can ask for anything any time. You don't have to wait until the 18th hole of the U.S. Open" (laughter).

Q. Obviously there's a lot of anxiety when you play in one of these, and the 1st hole the butterflies are flying. How much easier did it become after you got the two shot swing right away?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Obviously I got the start that I wanted; especially to birdie the 3rd hole and finish those three 2 under was a good start for me. But having said that, it's also tough to have a lead like that because then the way I play, I start playing a little too conservative, and you have to find a balance where you play conservative and not just too conservative or you're all of a sudden struggling to make par.

I was trying not to look too much at the leaderboard and not think too much how many shots I was ahead, just post a good score. 2 under after three, let's post a good score because that's really all I can do.

However, on the last few holes I have to admit I was playing a little more conservative, trying to go for the center of the green and trying to hit the putts really close.

Q. Talk about how much this tournament means to you. What's the first U.S. Women's Open that really had an impact on you, watching it as a fan?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I don't think I understand your question.

Q. What's the first U.S. Women's Open tournament that you remember watching and paying attention to?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, growing up in Sweden, a lot of these tournaments, they didn't cover them early on. Finally now they're starting to cover at least 18 holes maybe throughout the week. But I read it mostly in magazines.

But I think the one Open that I did read about and saw some highlights was the U.S. Open where Liselotte Neumann won, which was 1988. I mean, I've always been aware of the championship and so forth, but we haven't really had too many Swedes playing in it, so the coverage hasn't really been so great. But when she won that, I'll never forget I walked down to the gas station just down the hill from my parents' and she was all over the headlines, "Liselotte wins the Open." I thought then, "Wow, this is pretty cool." She comes from a little town like I do, and I would say she's the one that sparked it for me a little bit, that this could be possible one day.

Q. To put this into a bigger context, ten majors now. Only five women have accomplished that, 68 career victories, as well, and everything else you've done now with three Open wins. What do you think this means as far as the big picture of where you are all time as a female golfer?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, it's tough for me to say, to put that into words. I mean, I've achieved a lot more than I ever thought I could. Then you start putting your name in the history book in different places, it's a little bit unreal sometimes. I hope I have a lot more to give and a lot more victories out there and hopefully some more majors to win. We'll see. Maybe that's something I can answer and maybe you can answer when I'm putting my clubs on the shelf when I retire. Maybe it's easier then.

I've come a long ways, and sometimes I have to pinch myself and say is this really true, is this really happening. But it's tough to compare I think different generations and so forth, but it's an exciting time, and I'm happy that I'm living my dream.

Q. This ties you now with your buddy Tiger for major championships. I'm wondering how quickly you're going to text message him and remind him of that?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I don't know if I'll have to remind him. He's been calling me every day and cheering me on, which has been really sweet of him. I think he's been on vacation, and for him to tune into women's golf I think says a lot (laughter). But when I get my phone, I'll find a way to remind him even more (laughter).

Q. When you look at the week as a whole, you had that real rough stretch yesterday at 7, 8 and 9, and a lot of players would have crumbled there. Why didn't you?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, like you said, it's a long week. I told myself coming into this tournament it's going to be 72 holes, and it turned out to be 90, but in my mind it was 72 holes. I just said I'm going to play. It doesn't matter if you birdie the 1st. You have 71 more to play. It doesn't matter if you bogey the 1st, you still have 71 to play. I told myself, just keep on playing, it doesn't matter. You've got to finish this, play one shot at a time, and you've just got to do it.

I think those three holes were obviously a bad stretch, but I figured, I'm not going to let this hold me back, I'm just going to keep on grinding, and I had a really great back nine. It is possible to play out here, and I think the key is trying to stay patient and trying to stay positive.

RHONDA GLENN: You've come so close in the Women's Open in recent years, most notably Pumpkin Ridge perhaps. How much did you think that the Women's Open leading into this one?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I've been thinking about this championship and obviously it's like, why haven't I done better here when I've won ten tournaments a year? Why can't you win this championship? I think I've been building this tournament up too much because it means so much to me.

There have been a few times where I've tried to have an easy approach and a laid back approach, but once you step up there on Thursday, it's tough to pretend you're not there when you see the crowd and you hear all the cheering.

I think this week I've been actually focusing a lot on my game. I've done a lot of changes in my swing not major changes but just changes. I was so focused on making sure my grip was okay and I made a good turn that that's really what was more on my mind rather than thinking I'm striking it perfect and this is my week. Now I really had to make it work.

Q. Yesterday when you had to make those birdie putts on 14 and 15 and when you did make them, were you telling yourself then just have fun, or was there a little more determination?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think there was quite a lot of determination. I had a few chances throughout the round but really didn't take advantage of it. Then I rolled in the one on 15. I hit a beautiful 7 iron in there. You know that you're not going to have too many chances on this golf course, especially with the way the wind was blowing. I just felt really good about those two putts.

Early in the round I had been hitting a lot of putts short, but for some reason, those two, I could see the line and I had the right feel.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you've done more than you ever dreamed of. Has there ever been a point where it's been tough to remain motivated, to not sit back and just enjoy it? And going forward, those couple of names that are ahead of you in majors and career wins, will that be your motivation?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I enjoy what I do, whether or not I've won a few tournaments in the last few months. This is what I enjoy doing. I think it's just sometimes hard when you push yourself so hard and you reach such a level that to get to the next step the steps are baby steps and you might not see it, and sometimes you might have to go backwards to get forward. That might sound funny, but I think that's just the way it is.

Right now I've hit a little bit of a plateau in my game, and I know that. It's been tough to climb straight up for six years, and I'm very happy about that.

I know what I've got to do, I know the things I have to work on to improve my game. This is a long journey, and you've got to enjoy it, otherwise you can't get to the destination. It's been tougher this year because I think people expect a lot of me, and so do I. But there's so many great players out there that if you don't play your best, you're not going to be up there. I'm just happy that this week I'm starting to hit some fairways, I'm starting to hit some greens. I'm seeing a different part of the golf course again, and this part is a lot prettier than the part I've seen the last few months.

Q. You've won majors by dominating, you've won all kinds of different ways. This is the first time you've got extended this far. Is there a different satisfaction that comes with winning this way, going 90 holes, and what is the thing that you're going to remember about this week?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, what I remember is it's hard work from start to finish. I think I came here Monday and I actually had quite a sore neck, a kink in my neck, and I couldn't practice the way I wanted on Monday. My coach had flown in from Sweden and I was ready to work with him and I needed to work with him, and we hit some balls and my neck just got worse. I thought, oh, this is not a great start to this week.

Then I played 18 holes on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I wanted to get a good 18 hole practice round in, and we had so much rain and so much wind that I only played 11. So the start maybe wasn't what I had in mind. I needed some more work with my coach, and all of a sudden we had a fog delay on Thursday, and I think that was good for me. I had a perfect tee time, had an afternoon tee time. I got a lot of sleep that evening, and for some reason it was good for me.

Then the last few days, I'm going to remember it was hard work. I have never grinded so much in my life. Every shot really had a purpose and every shot had a thought to it. I guess I would say that's what I remember the most.

Q. It's your first U.S. Open Championship as a U.S. citizen. Can you talk about what that was like, and does it add a little bit extra to it knowing that you've been through that?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I think it's pretty funny, too, how things happen, and the sequence they come in. Yeah, it's funny, I got my citizenship this last week or maybe two weeks ago. I was sworn in in Orlando, and now I'm just waiting for my passport. It's kind of funny, I actually never won a Swedish championship. I'm a Swedish citizen but have never won there. I don't know if you can count this as my at least I'm a U.S. citizen and this is the championship of the USA.

Q. I believe you're the first golfer since Amy Alcott to win wire to wire. Is it easier for you to sleep on the lead, or does it make more stress by the end of the week?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You know, I've been in so many different situations. I mean, I've come from behind, I've been wire to wire a few times. I think just experience helps me to win these type of championships and tournaments in general. It's just experience that helps. I never really think about what I shoot the first day, I just keep on playing, and pretty much by the end of the day I have a score up. I don't sit and analyze things like that, I just play my game.

Q. Just getting back to your citizenship, why did you decide to make the move, and you still have Swedish citizenship, as well?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I do. I'm a dual citizen. You know, I've been over here for 16 years and I like it. This is where I spend my time, and the way I look at it, I'll probably be here the rest of my life, so I thought that was the appropriate thing to do.

Q. What will you do in the Solheim Cup then?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I'm still European at heart. I don't think they'll change the rules. As a matter of fact, I think somebody told me I can't play the Solheim Cup for the USA, so I'm not sure.

Q. Going ahead now to the HSBC, is this a good thing this week for you because you're playing well, or is this a bad thing because it's been so physically and mentally taxing?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You know, I haven't thought about this week. I guess we'll have to do that soon. I know I'm flying out this afternoon. It's a different type of tournament. It's a match play event.

I am tired now for sure, and I'm sure I'm going to take the day off tomorrow, which means I won't really have a practice round other than the Pro Am. Maybe not the preparation I had in mind for such a major tournament, but this is the week that's still on my mind and has been on my mind for a long time, so I want to enjoy this moment and try to be ready when I tee off on Thursday.

Q. You've been on both sides of the U.S. Open playoffs. Are you in favor of the 18 hole format, or would you have rather have just gotten it done last night after play was over?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, it's a good question. It was a little funny waking up this morning and when we came out there was hardly anybody here. I mean, this is a championship you want to win, and you feel like it's just me and Pat and we're going to play a casual round of golf, but it was a lot more than that.

I think the excitement started building up once we got on the 1st tee, but having said that, I think maybe a three hole playoff would have been a little better, especially when all the excitement and all the adrenaline was there last night with all the people and all the you work so hard, and then we leave Sunday and we still don't know who won. It's kind of funny how that all works out.

It makes for a long week, that's for sure. You would think that you could determine a winner within 75 holes.

Q. I'd like to ask two questions if I could. When you woke up this morning and saw the wind wasn't blowing, did that excite you and did you think that would help your game? And also, did you ever wonder if this day would ever come again?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, when I woke up this morning I wasn't really thinking about the wind or the conditions. I was quite tired. It's been such a long weekend that I was just, like, let's go out there and focus on what you've got to do. After I came here to the course I realized there's no wind, this course is going to play a lot different and thinking that might be a good thing and not have to really wear yourself mentally out. I mean, I was tired yesterday, but if we would have gotten some wind today, it would have been really, really tough.

To answer your second question, I think you never know how many times you'll get an opportunity like this again. You know, I wanted to make the most out of it, and that's why I think one of the reasons I grinded so hard was just because of that, knowing that it's right here, make the most out of it, take advantage of it. I didn't want to leave here knowing that I left something on the table. You've got to enjoy it when the moment is out there.

Q. You've sort of looked toward this tournament for several years now and have had disappointments in the last several years and bounced back and had a very strong second half of the season. This year you have the triumph of here. How do you think that's going to impact the rest of the season, including your British Open hopes?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, this season is really shaping up to be different than the last few years. I mean, to get off to such a good start and then to have a little bit of a lull like I've felt like I've had and then to win this championship, it's funny how all things come together. Who knows what the rest of the season will be like and how it will shape up.

Hopefully I can continue to play a little better, continue to work with Henry. I still have some stuff I've got to work on, and the competition gets tougher and tougher every year. If you don't play your best, it's tough to be up there.

Now I'll say this is a big week for the Match Play, and after that we've got the British Open. That's something I look forward to. I'm going back to a good place where I will be I won't say defending champion, but I won there the last time we played there, so that's going to bring some memories back.

We have a lot of fun tournaments the rest of the year, and I'd like to finish it a little stronger than I started.

RHONDA GLENN: I know you and Pat are friends. You've played casual golf together, and you're so much of a professional, I don't imagine that would influence you in a playoff. Did it in any way, or did you think about the fact that you are friends, playing head to head?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I was trying not to think too much about it. Like I said, this is a big championship. Just because it's a Monday and just the two of us, I didn't want to take it too easy. This is still important, and I still want to be able to focus.

I mean, we talked throughout the round, but when it was time to hit, I said, just put your mind to it, this is what you've got to do.

RHONDA GLENN: Thank you very much. Congratulations.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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