Sorenstam struggles, but still leads at U.S. Senior Women's Open

FAIRFIELD — Annika Sorenstam didn’t run away and hide from the field during the third round of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Her even-par score Saturday left the door ajar to allow for a competitive Sunday final round.

But no one was able to draw even with the LPGA Tour Hall of Famer. In fact, only six players broke par in the third round as Brooklawn Country Club played tough despite perfect weather conditions.

So we have virtually the same script for the third consecutive day: Annika Sorenstam on top of the leaderboard at 8 under par, competing in her first USGA championship in 13 years. Her lead is 2 over Liselotte Neumann.

“Yeah, today was not as sharp as the previous two days. You know, probably felt a little bit out there, and I missed some of my drives today. I ended up in some positions I hadn't been in before,” Sorenstam said following her round of even-par 72. “I'm going to just sharpen up my game tomorrow. I tried, I scrambled, I hung in there, and just really all I had today unfortunately. But it's a new day tomorrow and a fresh start and we go from there.”

The two countrywomen from Sweden will be paired together for the fourth straight day. Neumann, who shot a 1-under 71, and Sorenstam tee off at 12:45 p.m.

“I’ll probably be pretty nervous tomorrow,” said Neumann, the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion. “It's a good feeling. I just love golf and love to compete. It's just the most fun thing we can do being out here, and being able to be in the last group, it's pretty special.”

Sorenstam is looking to claim her fourth USGA championship. She won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1995, 1996 and 2006. Her last USGA event came in 2008 when she tied for third at the Open.

She has had this particular event circled on her calendar since she turned 50 last October. She had a “tune-up” three weeks ago in the American Century Celebrity Championship where she placed fourth.

“I planned everything around this event, so I feel like every tournament I played, whether it was Diamond Resorts, LPGA, playing in Europe, and then a few weeks ago when I played in Lake Tahoe, American Century, I think all of those things are playing a role. It really does,” Sorenstam said.

Sorenstam made more bogeys Saturday (3) than she had in the first two rounds combined (2). She was able to off-set that with three birdies (1, 10 and 14).

There are just five players under par. Catriona Matthew was among them, shooting a 71 to stand in third place, four behind Sorenstam.

“It's great to be able to come and play in this. As my kids said, I've got a chance of winning this one. So, yeah, it's nice to come back and play with a few people you used to play with,” Matthew said.

Laura Davies, the inaugural winner of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018, shot the low round of the day, firing a 4-under 68. She switched putters after shooting 75 while playing with Sorenstam and Neumann on Saturday.

“I virtually had the yips yesterday. I just putted horrifically and didn't think I would hole a putt again,” Davies said. “The front nine, I played nicely and made some putts.”

But Davies feels at 6 back, she is too far behind.

“Yeah, I put myself out of it (Friday). It was a truly horrific round of putting,” Davies said.

Kris Tschetter is sixth at even par through three rounds. Dana Ebster, the first round co-leader with Sorenstam who was an alternate coming into the week, shot a 4-over 76. But she still is in a four-way tie for seventh place at 1-over.

So the script is there for the pre-tournament favorite to win another USGA event. She has the experience and the crowd support to pull it off.

Will Sorenstam be able to go wire to wire at Brooklawn CC?

“It's easy to say you’ve been there, done that, but it's been a while and I'm a little different person now,” Sorenstam said. “If somebody would've said, ‘You're playing in the last group on Sunday.’ I would say, ‘I'll take it.’ Here I am, so I’m not going to analyze too much. But I got to do something, a little more than what I did today, to be able to walk up that fairway and not feel so stressed.”

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli