Sorenstam Humbled But Still Hopeful

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2005 U.S. WomenCHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- Annika Sorenstam described the low point of her U.S. Open experience succinctly: '8-iron, putt, putt, putt, putt.'

The high point, she believes, could still come Sunday.

Despite a round of 2-over 73 that included an unseemly four-putt on the par-3 sixth hole, and despite trailing leaders Karen Stupples, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel by five strokes with just 18 holes to play, Sorenstam was not surrendering in her quest to win the third leg of the Grand Slam.

Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam's back is against the wall as she stands five off the lead at the U.S. Women's Open.
'This is a chance I am not going to give up,' she said. 'I am going to fight to the end.'

The fight will start with Sorenstam at 6-over-par 219 courtesy of a round Saturday in which she did, in fact, move one stroke closer to the lead but still failed to take advantage of the less-than-stellar rounds being shot by those in front of her.

She closed the day tied for 16th, with 12 players between her and the leaders.

'Right now, I'm not really concerned how many players are between me and the leaders,' she said. 'I think plus-4 could be a good score tomorrow. Having said that, I am at plus-6. I know what I have got to do.'

While a score of 2 under is certainly possible for Sorenstam, she has yet to break par in three tries at Cherry Hills.

Her third round started promisingly enough, with a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 2, but the rest of the day veered between frustrating and downright messy.

There was a three-putt bogey on the third, the four-putt double on the sixth and on No. 9, a hack out of the rough that barely left the ground and traveled maybe 10 paces forward.
 
Sorenstam said she was happy with the decisions she made on the course, but it seemed like nothing quite worked, especially on the par-5s, which is where big hitters like her normally have the biggest edge.

When she played aggressively, even her good shots weren't rewarded. Take her decision to hit driver on the par-5 11th, which left her smack in the middle of the fairway and in range of the green in two. She followed with long iron that landed right of the green and she needed a nice chip and two putts to save par.
 
But when she played conservatively, that didn't work, either. On the par-5 fifth, for example, she hit two good shots to the middle of the fairway, about 100 yards away. Her third shot, however, didn't make it to the green. She had to scramble to save par there, too.
 
On No. 17, the third and final par-5, she made par after hitting her fourth shot while teetering on the bank of a pond, the result of an indifferent approach from a perfect position. She made 5 there to extend her streak to 24 par-5s in which she has failed to make birdie.

'To be honest with you, I can't really take advantage of them anymore,' she said. 'Normally, par-5s are my strength, but here, I am laying up. My distance advantage really doesn't give me any benefits here.'
 
Despite the new and different problems the 6,749-yard Cherry Hills Country Club presents her, with its ankle-high rough and postage-stamp greens, Sorenstam can't be counted out. Nineteen of her 62 career victories have come with her trailing heading into the final round.
 
Most significant among those was her 1995 U.S. Open victory, down Interstate 25 at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, where she overcame a five-stroke deficit to defeat Meg Mallon.

The one Sorenstam recalled Saturday was her 10-stroke comeback at the 2001 Office Depot Championship. She shot 66, won in a playoff and tied the LPGA record for biggest rally.
 
'It wasn't the U.S. Open, but it was a tournament with the same kind of field,' Sorenstam said.
 
Of course, one other comeback comes to mind whenever the venue is Cherry Hills. It was 45 years ago that Arnold Palmer drove the first green to start his final round en route to a rally from seven strokes behind for the win -- a record that still stands today.
 
While Sorenstam wouldn't promise to use driver on No. 1 come Sunday, she knows she needs to do something dramatic to keep her Grand Slam dream alive. 'I need to climb on the leaderboard and show them I am still here and I'mserious and we'll see,' Sorenstam said. 'I don't think I'm going to need a miracle round, but it needs to be good.'
 
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