The thing about rivalries is that it takes two to tango.
For most of the past five months, Annika Sorenstam has pretty much had her way with the LPGA Tour, winning five times and scoring the season's first major championship. Along the way she became the first woman pro ever to post a sub-60 round with a 59 at a tournament in Phoenix.
Karrie Webb, the tour's dominant player the past two years, had been kicked to the curb, or so it seemed.
That all changed this past weekend as Webb shook off the cobwebs and posted an eight-shot victory while successfully defending her title in the U.S. Women's Open.
So the rivalry is back in full bloom, which is good news for the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic. Never before have Sorenstam and Webb competed in the same year at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, but that will change when the Farr Classic is held July 5-8 (ESPN2/ESPN).
“It's going to be a tough summer for me,” Sorenstam said yesterday. “I got off to such a good start and Karrie struggled a little bit. But now she's right there again and it's going to be a lot of fun. It'll be exciting to see what happens.
“She has stepped it up a notch, but I won't give in to her. I'll fight her. I love the challenge. That's what makes this game so much fun.”
The Farr Classic, presented by Alltel, held its media day yesterday at the Meadows. Sorenstam did not attend, but took part in a closed-circuit TV press conference.
“The way Karrie played last week at the Open was incredible,” said Sorenstam, who carded a 7-over-par 287 total, 14 shots in arrears of Webb at Pine Needles Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. “She played solid, was consistent and made a lot of birdies, which is how she played the last two years.
“I have a lot of respect for her, not just for how she plays but for how she handles herself. She left a note in my locker after my 59 and she was the first to congratulate me after I won the Nabisco Championship (the year's first major). That's the kind of person Karrie is. She's very competitive, but also has respect for what other players accomplish.”
Sorenstam, who won last year's Farr on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff against Rachel Hetherington (now Rachel Teske) after hitting a spectacular approach shot on the final hole of regulation play, said she was unable to accomplish much this past weekend because of an inability to accurately judge distances.
“At least I was consistent, consistently wrong,” she said of her club selection. “I just never felt comfortable with distances. I felt as good about my game coming into that tournament as I have in a while, but it was a tough week for me on a difficult course.
“I still feel good about my game. I don't think I have to work on anything specific. I just need to make better club selections.”
Sorenstam, who leads the LPGA Tour with $1,060,774 in earnings this season, is in New York this week for the Wegmans Rochester International. She will play the following week at the Evian Masters in France, an event she won last year, then return to the U.S. for the McDonald's LPGA Championship in Wilmington, Del. She'll then take a week off before defending her Farr Classic title.
“Golf is so much about confidence,” she said. “Highland Meadows fits my game and I have good memories from winning last year, so I can't wait to get back there.”
WESTERVILLE, Ohio - For the 45th year in a row, at least one Nicklaus will be in the field at the U.S. Open. Jack Nicklaus, a winner of four Opens, will not compete this year, breaking a streak of 44 years in a row.
His son Gary, however, had the lowest 36-hole score yesterday during sectional qualifying at The Lakes Golf and Country Club and Double Eagle Club.
The elder Nicklaus watched his son play at Double Eagle Club.
Among the others qualifying were prominent tour players Fred Couples, Dudley Hart, Bob Tway, Brett Quigley, Bob Tway, Tim Herron, Glen Day, Harrison Frazar, Carl Paulson, Robert Gamez, Steve Stricker, Fred Funk and Steve Lowery.