Annika Sorenstam was already recognised as a golfing great prior to winning the AIG Women’s Open in 2003, but the Swede’s triumph at Royal Lytham & St Annes earned her a place in a truly elite group.
Sorenstam, who turned 50 on Friday, became only the sixth woman to complete a career Grand Slam when she added the AIG Women’s Open title to her previous successes at the U.S. Women’s Open, Kraft Nabisco Championship and LPGA Championship.
Victory in the only women’s major to be played on British soil had proven elusive for Sorenstam before 2003, even though she frequently mounted strong challenges.
She was a runner-up in the AIG Women’s Open on three occasions before it was afforded major status, finishing second to Liselotte Neumann in 1994, Karrie Webb in 1995 and Sherri Steinhauer in 1999.
However, there was no stopping Sorenstam at Royal Lytham & St Annes as she came from behind in the final round to claim her sixth major title in dramatic fashion.
Sorenstam, who was the undisputed world number one heading into the event, started the week strongly with a four-under 68, but trailed by four strokes at the halfway stage of the tournament after a second-round 72.
A 68 in round three improved Sorenstam’s position, but she still had three players ahead of her with 18 holes to play. At eight under, she trailed Se-Ri Pak and Wendy Ward by one, with Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, who had pipped Sorenstam to the Kraft Nabisco Championship title earlier in the year, a further stroke in front.
The final day ultimately culminated in a battle between Sorenstam and Pak as Meunier-Lebouc faded. Having trailed her rival for the majority of the front nine, Sorenstam twice edged in front with birdies at the 11th and 15th, only for playing partner Pak to respond each time with gains of her own at the 12th and 16th.
After a day of high tension, the championship was decided on the 72nd hole, with Pak making bogey after finding a fairway bunker off the tee and Sorenstam holding her nerve to secure the par she needed to prevail.
“I felt the pressure, but then on the other hand, I felt this is what it’s all about, to play in a major championship where you have to perform” said the champion.
“And it was a great feeling. Now I’m here, sitting here with a trophy. This is what I wanted for so long.”
Sorenstam would end her distinguished career with 10 major titles and her impact on women’s golf continues to be hugely significant to this day, through her work with the ANNIKA Foundation.