Annika Sorenstam arrived in a silver coach and left in a pumpkin.
On May 28, the first day of the U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles
Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., where five years
earlier she had won the Women's Open by six strokes, she was the
prize autograph, the must-have interview, the queen bee. The next
day the five-time champion in 2001 was peering into a toilet,
feeling more ridiculous than regal.
Come Sunday, Sorenstam was just another pro paying her caddie in
the pines, while on the 18th green the silver trophy was hoisted
by a beaming Karrie Webb, Sorenstam's longtime rival and winner
of this year's Open by eight strokes. To help us understand what
it's like to bear the burden of high expectations in a major, we
asked David Esch, Sorenstam's husband, to write a tournament
diary for us. Esch's entries capture tour life in all its
banality--the tired cycle of meals, workouts, laundry runs and
pillow talk--and serve as a poignant counterpoint to the week that
was Webb's. Esch begins:
MONDAY, MAY 28. From our home in Orlando to Southern Pines is
about an hour and a quarter, so door-to-door we were here in less
than two hours. (Thank you, Executive Jet!) As I unloaded our
luggage at the house we've rented for the week, Annika said, "It
doesn't feel as if we've traveled at all."
At Pine Needles it was hectic from the start. Since Annika shot
her 59 at the Standard Register Ping in March, we have met an
entirely different, very aggressive kind of fan. I'm shadowing
her at all times this week, something I don't normally do. I got
her to the practice ground and then watched as she and Terry
McNamara, her caddie, worked for three hours. She called it a
By 6:30 p.m. we were famished. At the Golden China Buffet
restaurant we took about 15 minutes to eat, the same to chat. We
then stopped at a market for groceries. We were "home" a little
before 7:30. I'm going to throw the medicine ball with Annika for
a few minutes and then get ready to meet with her agent, Mark
Steinberg, who will be here shortly after nine.
TUESDAY, MAY 29. Breakfast at our house usually consists of some
kind of cereal (Annika likes Smart Start or oatmeal) with fresh
fruit and apple or orange juice. We waited out front until Mark
picked us up. (Mark's plane was delayed last night, so we agreed
to go to the gym together at eight this morning.)
Southern Pines has a great gym. I hopped on the treadmill while
Annika and Mark spent their time on the stationary bike. We all
did about 35 minutes of cardio and then went into one of the
studios for abdominals and stretching. We each did from 150 to
200 crunches and then finished with push-ups.
The last time we saw an agent do 150 reps, it was with a
six-pack of Coors.
Annika's scheduled press conference at 11 went smoothly. The
questions were standard: "How does this course suit you? Do you
feel the pressure? What is your game plan for the week?" After
lunch Annika went to a rest room to powder her nose. Somehow her
player credential--a badge with USGA CONTESTANT and ANNIKA
SORENSTAM engraved on it--slipped off her belt and splashed in the
toilet. The badge went right down the drain, so there is now a
great keepsake stuck in a pipe in the Pine Needles Lodge.
As defending champ, Webb had a press conference, too. Reporters
wanted her take on Morgan Pressel, the 13-year-old from Boca
Raton, Fla., who made the field through local qualifying. One
asked, "Does it make you feel older than you really are?" A
smiling Webb replied, "I'm a veteran now--a 26-year-old veteran."
With a new badge on her belt, Annika warmed up on the range and
then played a practice round. She made eight birdies and shot a
63. I hope that's an indication of how it will go this week.
Annika's parents, Tom and Gunilla, flew in from Sweden. They
arrived at around 6 p.m. and will be staying with us for the rest
of the week. Annika is cooking pasta this evening.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 30. We met Terry on the putting green at 7 a.m.
Annika spent most of her practice time chipping and putting. It
was very pleasant; few autograph seekers get up that early. I
walked the whole 18 of her practice round again, fulfilling my
promise to play security chief. Afterward Annika grabbed a bite
to eat and spent an hour hitting wedges to Terry, who caught them
with a baseball glove. She then went to the fitness trailer for a
little cardio and stretching.
Webb had been out of the LPGA spotlight for a while. Visibly
tired in March after finishing second behind Sorenstam at the
Nabisco Championship, she took three weeks off in Florida,
fishing and resting. She then flew halfway around the world to
win the Australian Ladies Masters and a tournament in Japan. "I
try to get my game to peak for the majors," she said.
We had chicken curry over rice for dinner and will unwind and get
to bed early. Tomorrow the fun starts.
THURSDAY, MAY 31. When I asked Annika how she had slept, she
said, "It was one of those nights where you wake up several times
and think the alarm is about to go off." A little anxious, maybe.
I didn't walk with Annika today. I had a few calls to make, and I
figured that with so many volunteer marshals on the course, she
was in good hands. But I followed her progress on my computer.
She shot an opening round of even-par 70 despite thinning a shot
on the 14th hole...
Witnesses called it a shank.
...that led to a double bogey. "It was a difficult lie," she
said. "My foot slipped." There was also a problem with Annika's
putter. The glare off the finish blinded her several times, and I
had to take over as last-minute equipment rep. Long story short:
I went to the equipment trailer and sanded, painted and repainted
the putter. Now it has a white line on top, which ought to reduce
Playing in the afternoon in front of a small gallery, Webb
matched Sorenstam's 70, leaving them three behind the first-round
leaders, A.J. Eathorne and Cindy Figg-Currier. A bigger crowd
followed Pressel, who shot a grownup 77 but was all teenager,
grinning one minute, grumpy the next. "She's a little feisty,"
said her grandfather Herb Krickstein. "After she three-putted [on
12] she was standing with her arms folded and, boy, I'll bet you
could have fried an egg on that little head."
We got back to the house a little after four and had Swedish
pancakes with soup for dinner. Now we're sitting in the kitchen,
watching the end of ESPN's Open coverage. Annika has moved from
the top 20 to a tie for 10th. Good for us.
FRIDAY, JUNE 1. We got to the course at 11:15. The minute I set
Annika's bag down on the putting green, the horn blew. It hadn't
rained, but there was lightning in the area.
Esch and Sorenstam didn't know it, but lightning had already
struck. Benefiting from an early tee time, Webb had hit 12 of 14
fairways and, finishing her round before the rain started, fired
a women's course-record 65. She was two strokes ahead of Eathorne
and out of harm's way before the skies unloaded, flooding Pine
Needles with a three-inch downpour.
Annika played two holes in howling winds before the horn sounded
for the third time. So that's where we are at the moment, hanging
around the house while it rains. We've done a couple of loads of
wash and gone to the store to restock the kitchen.
Webb dined on Friday night in a back room at the fashionable Pine
Crest Inn. She was the guest of Craig and Debbie Mueller, the
Ocala, Fla., couple who have been close to her for six years,
ever since they took her in for a week during her days as a
Futures tour rookie. Says Craig, "We're kind of like her American
Webb, looking rested and relaxed, had the pork chops.
SATURDAY, JUNE 2. I could be wrong, but I venture to guess that
Annika was the only LPGA pro doing push-ups at 4:30 this
morning. I drank my coffee and watched her--always there for
Sorenstam's day was nothing to get exercised about. Teeing off at
seven, she completed her second round in 72. She played again in
the afternoon, shooting 73 and tying for 17th, 11 off the pace.
Webb cruised around in 69 and opened a five-stroke lead on her
closest pursuer, 1998 Women's Open champion Se Ri Pak. "I think
Karrie has been preparing for this all spring," said Meg Mallon,
another former Open winner. "That round yesterday brought out all
the confidence she needed."
Annika's iron play hasn't been as sharp as usual. Having said
that, the Donald Ross greens have taken a couple of GIRs [greens
hit in regulation] from her and everyone else, too. I can think
of shots in both rounds, if they had been five feet right or left
of where they landed, they would've been golden. Instead, she's
chipping and trying to save par.
"This course is tough," said Mallon. "You can bogey yourself to
death--as I've proved."
Annika hasn't lost hope. In the car after dinner she said, "If I
had to do it over again, I wouldn't change a thing. I prepared
well, and I've given it my best shot. The media asked if I had
too much pressure. I don't think so."
SUNDAY, JUNE 3. Yesterday morning I met Laura Myerscough's
father. (Laura, a sophomore at Arizona, was playing in front of
us.) He said, "Our goal now is to make the cut." I knew what he
meant, but Annika has taught me that you can't go through life
that way. Annika starts every day with the objective of being the
best and winning. If the cut line is six over, as it was
yesterday, and she is 10 over, she isn't playing to make the cut.
She's still trying to win the tournament.
But we were realistic about her chances of catching Karrie. "I
need a miracle round," Annika said yesterday, "and then a little
more than that."
Sorenstam didn't get her miracle; she shot 72 and finished 16th.
Webb didn't perform any Sunday miracles either, but she didn't
have to. Pak played a desperate, four-birdie, six-bogey round,
and Webb enjoyed the luxury of walking the final fairway with her
sunglasses up and a big smile on her face. Webb then canned a
20-foot birdie putt for a seven-under 273, hugged the Muellers
and walked off the green with the first back-to-back Open wins
since Sorenstam's (1995 and '96) and her fourth win in the last
seven majors. Asked if she minded being overlooked earlier in the
week, Webb responded with a smile that said, You must be kidding.
"As most of you guys know, I don't really get involved in all the
attention, the hype. You really can be overwhelmed by it."
Annika departs knowing that she put everything she had into it,
Esch writes in the final entry of his Open diary. Some weeks,
that's enough. Some weeks, it isn't.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK Picture of contentment Esch and Sorenstam were all smiles after Annika's fourth straight tour win in April.
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Methodical Webb took control with a tournament-best 65 in the second round.
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Reflecting Esch (left) and McNamara huddled with Sorenstam after she complained about the glare on the top line of her putter.
Webb, who has four victories in the last seven majors, is the
first player since Sorenstam in '95 and '96 to win back-to-back
"If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change a thing,"
Sorenstam said. "I prepared well, and I've given it my best