Annika Better Prepared This Time

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NORTH PLAINS, Ore. -- Six years ago, on the eve of the first U.S. Womens Open here at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, the eyes of the golf world were focused on Annika Sorenstam. The then-26-year-old was trying to win the Open for an unprecedented third consecutive year. The pressure ' and the attention ' on the then-quite-shy Sorenstam were enormous. She missed the cut.
 
Since that time, Sorenstam has won 35 times on the LPGA Tour, including three more major championships. Oh, by the way, shes also missed the cut at Colonial since that last Pumpkin Ridge Open. Yes, things have changed.
 
It was a little different situation in 97, coming here, Sorenstam said. I had a chance for a three-peat, which nobody else had done I just couldnt handle the pressure. It was early in my career.
 
Today, I feel ' obviously I feel ' six years older. I feel a little more mature, and I think my game has changed quite a bit.
 
So, now Annika Sorenstam heads into a U.S. Womens Open at Pumpkin Ridge as the overwhelming favorite to win. She certainly covets this championship.
 
Ive always felt like this is the biggest championship, she said. As a little kid I would practice-putt at home; and I would always say, This is to win the U.S. Open.
 
Incredibly, its not the No. 1-player in womens golf who is attracting the most attention this week, but a 13-year-old who is playing in the U.S. Womens Open for the first time.
 
Every golf fan has heard of her by now. Michelle Wie began living up to her ridiculously enormous hype and potential just 11 days ago when she won the Womens Amateur Public Links Championship. The precocious 13-year-old, thusly, became the youngest player to win an adult USGA. championship.
 
Michelle and fellow 13-year-old Sydney Burlison are two of a record 14 teen-agers playing in this Open. Both Sydney ' who is nine days younger than Wie ' and Michelle were invited to participate in the elite USGA. pre-championship news conferences. Their meets with the press were interspersed with major champions Sorenstam, Inkster, Pak and Webb. No one drew as many reporters or TV cameras as Wie.
 
Michelle expectations are not unrealistic this week: I guess everyone comes here to win. I want to ' of course I want to win, but I just want to make par on every hole, play consistently, try not to make too many mistakes, and hopefully Ill make the top 10.
 
She sounds like a girl wise beyond her years, doesnt she? It was just four months ago when Michelle finished in the top 10 at the womens first major championship of the year, the Kraft Nabisco.
 
Many of the jaded members of the media have questioned whether the 13-year-old is doing too much at such a young age. They wonder whether the wonderful Wie will burn out before she even becomes an adult.
 
In the packed USGA media center, the most mature Michelle put all of the so-called experts in their proper place: How do they know? (laughter) I mean, theyre not 13. Theyre probably 40 years old, watching TV, watching me play. I mean Im still young and fresh. I can handle it.
 
The crowd roared its laughter and appreciation.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the U.S. Women's Open
  • More LPGA Tour Preview Information