Originally created 07/10/02

A 42-year-old woman sends a message to the guys

HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Leave it to a woman to show the guys how to get it done.

Juli Inkster was in the same predicament that Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh have faced this year - trying to catch the No. 1 player in the world in the final round of a major championship.

Most of the men wilted.

She won.

No, Annika Sorenstam is not Tiger Woods.

Still, she has won 14 times over the last two years, including a 10-stroke comeback and the only 59 in LPGA history.

Hers is one of the most daunting names on the leaderboard. The week before the Women's Open, she came from three strokes behind in the final round to win for the sixth time in 12 tournaments.

"She wins almost every other week," Inkster said. "But given the right situation, I feel like I can play with her."

Here's some advice for players trying to stop Woods from winning the third leg of the Grand Slam at the British Open:

Instead of going to Ireland to get acclimated to links golf, or playing the Scottish Open to get into a competitive frame of mind, or even taking this week off to recharge the batteries, get the tape from the final round at Prairie Dunes.

The 42-year-old Inkster put on a clinic.

"Tiger is human. Annika is human," Inkster said when asked what the men could learn from her final round. "I just think you've got to play your own game. You can't worry about what Tiger is doing, or Annika is doing.

"I thought she'd come out here and shoot under par. And I just felt that when I'm playing well, I can play with her."

Inkster knows she can't hit the ball as far or as straight as Sorenstam. She was trying to make up a two-stroke deficit that seemed even larger considering the Swede had missed only one fairway in the previous two rounds and had yet to post a score over par.

She knew Sorenstam wouldn't roll over.

Woods had a share of the lead at the Masters, shot a 71 and won by three shots. He had a four-stroke lead at the U.S. Open, closed with a 2-over par 72 and won by three.

Sorenstam shot an even-par 70 in the final round, the kind of score from a front-runner that usually wins a U.S. Open.

So what happened?

"Juli played really good," Sorenstam said. "There was nothing I could do about it."

Step One: Apply pressure early.

Inkster stuffed her tee shot to the upper ridge on No. 2, which had one of the least accessible holes at Prairie Dunes, and made birdie to cut the lead in half.

"All the pressure was on Annika," she said. "She's the No. 1 player in the world. She had the two-shot lead. I felt like, if I could get off to a reasonable start, I would have a shot."

Step Two: Maintain the momentum.

Mickelson was four shots behind Woods at the Masters. He birdied the first two holes, then bogeyed the next two. At the U.S. Open, Mickelson birdied the first hole, Woods bogeyed the first two, and a five-shot deficit was quickly down to two. But Mickelson bogeyed Nos. 5 and 6, and later dropped shots on the 16th and 17th that allowed Woods to coast home.

Inkster was relentless from the start and was never seriously in danger of a bogey until the ninth hole, where she made a 6-foot par putt - one of four par-saving putts in a final round that featured only 25 putts.

"I had to be a little more aggressive because Juli was playing well," Sorenstam said.

Step Three: Stick to your game and see what happens.

Els was still in the hunt on the back nine at the Masters when he tried to pound his tee shot on the par-5 13th and went into the woods. Instead of pitching out, he tried to advance the ball through the trees and wound up in Rae's Creek, taking a triple bogey.

"They were playing Tiger," Jack Nicklaus said. "They should have played the golf course. I think it was quite obvious that they were trying to do something that they shouldn't be trying to do."

Inkster didn't have her best game going into the final round, but said she would make do with what she had. She found her swing just 15 minutes before teeing off, but still didn't play too aggressively.

"I just played my own game," Inkster said. "I didn't try to do anything that I wasn't capable of doing, and it worked out."

Suddenly forced to catch up, Sorenstam finally cracked by missing the greens at Nos. 15 and 16 and taking bogeys. Woods hasn't been forced to make crucial putts in his last three major victories.

"Juli played excellent," Sorenstam said. "She really outplayed me."

That's something Woods has yet to say at a major championship.


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