View From Outside the Ropes

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ORLANDO ' I was very happy to see Catriona Matthew, or 'Supermum,' as she came to be known in the British tabloids this past week, win her first major championship on Sunday. To come back as soon as she did after giving birth to her second child, and to be on top of her game like that, is quite a remarkable accomplishment.
 
If ever she was going to win a major, I would have bet that her first would be a Womens British Open. Her game is perfectly suited for links courses like Royal Lytham & St. Annes: Shes a good putter, shes very straight off the tee, has good control over her ball, and doesnt hit it too high. She also grew up in Scotland, so shes very familiar with this style of play. You could tell that she and her caddie (her husband, Graeme) knew exactly where to hit it off the tee. I dont think she was in any fairway bunkers. Youve got to know where these bunkers are. If you get too aggressive and try and bomb one out there, you can find yourself hitting into a bunker you didnt think you could reach, and thats almost a sure one-shot penalty.
 
I didnt find a single fairway bunker here in 2003, when I won my lone Womens British Open title. That was the goal that my caddie, Terry McNamara, and I had for the week. Terry said, 'I dont care what you do, were staying short of those bunkers, unless you know you can drive over them.' That strategy paid off, although I saw players hitting a lot more drivers this week than I remember in 2003. Its very hard to play conservatively and lay up short of everything, because then you can really have some long shots into the green. Its a fine balance: The conditions are constantly changing at the British Open, and you have to know when to play conservative and when you can be aggressive.
 
The two long birdie putts Catriona made on holes 13 and 14 were obviously huge for her confidence. She was not playing her best up to that point, just trying to hang on, but I could tell after she made the 40-footer on No. 14 that she was back in control of the tournament. No. 14 is one of the toughest holes on the course, and to walk off there with a birdie had to be a huge relief for her, not to mention a nice little buffer between her and the rest of the field. For every birdie the leader makes that late in the round, it makes it that much more difficult on the rest of the field playing ahead of her. They start to realize theyre running out of holes, and they need to make something big happen in a hurry.
 
Once Catriona made her third consecutive birdie on No. 15, there was no catching her.
 
Paula Creamer made a valiant run on Sunday. She was only one stroke back of Catriona standing on the 17th tee, and I think had she made par on No. 18 and finished at one under, she wouldve applied a little pressure on Catriona. However, she found the tall grass overhanging one of the fairway bunkers with her tee shot, and then after punching out, sent her third shot past the green up against the clubhouse. That put an end to her bid for that elusive first major.
 
I think its only a matter of time before Paula wins a major. She just has to go out there and let it come to her, and not get too aggressive. As I have said before, it is very easy to put too much pressure on yourself in the majors. I put a lot of pressure on myself to win majors and I think Paula does that too, although its not something that goes away easily.
 
I was surprised to learn that 17 different players have won the last 18 majors on the LPGA Tour. The only player with two majors during that span is Lorena Ochoa. That goes to show you that theres really no dominant player in womens golf right now. Lorena held that designation for awhile, but shes obviously not playing at her best right now. I dont know if her motivation and focus is what it used to be. Shes got a lot of other interests. Shes getting married soon and she has a very successful foundation; she changed caddies in the middle of the year. These are big changes. You have to be so hungry and motivated to stay on top year after year. And shes not there right now. We know she can do it, its just a matter of her putting all of her focus on competitive golf again.
 
Perhaps these majors will serve as a kick in the butt and shell come out strong next year. You never know.
 
Solheim Cup Thoughts I liked Beth Daniels captain picks for the American squad in the upcoming Solheim Cup. I know Michelle Wies selection raised a few eyebrows, but if you look at her stats this year, shes really performed very consistently all year long. She didnt have last year to build up her point total, but this year shes been very solid. If I were captain, I'd want someone who is peaking and is in good form, and Michelle is a very exciting player.
 
I could see Michelle getting paired with a veteran like Juli Inkster, Beths other captains choice. Juli gets along with everyone; that along with her proven track record as a winner and leader is why she's on the team. Not to mention that she's a fan favorite and has a lot of experience.
 
Annika Sorenstam writes a column for GolfChannel.com following all four LPGA majors and the Solheim Cup this season. Sorenstam played in 55 majors during her career, winning 10 and finishing in the top-10 31 times. Sorenstam now spends her time focusing on her Annika brand of businesses, which include the Annika Academy, Foundation, Course Design, Financial Group, apparel collection with Cutter & Buck as well as her signature wine and fragrance.