NORMAN — The toughest test in women’s golf would figure to be a piece of cake for the No. 1 player in the world.
She already had six wins, and the LPGA Tour season was barely at the halfway point. She stamped her dominance by winning the first two majors of the year. The gap between her and the next best player was even larger than what Tiger Woods enjoyed in men’s golf. Her swing was reliable. And she had the experience as a past U.S. Women’s Open champion. If she had a weakness, it wasn’t apparent.
A third straight major almost seemed inevitable.
But it didn’t work out that way in 2005 for Annika Sorenstam. She tried to ignore a month of hype only for jangled nerves to join her on the first tee at Cherry Hills. She was behind from the opening round, and the harder she tried, the farther behind she fell.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Sorenstam recalled last week about her bid for the Grand Slam. “I wanted to not necessarily ignore it, but I was trying to not let it get to me. I wanted to just focus. It’s another major. It’s the U.S. Open, and at the time, I had won two before. And I thought, ‘I can do this.”’
She can appreciate better than most what Inbee Park faces this week.
The 24-year-old South Korean didn’t win the first two majors as convincingly as Sorenstam did in 2005, but she won them. Park is coming off back-to-back wins, including the LPGA Championship in a playoff, to widen her lead at No. 1 in the world. She won the Women’s Open just five years ago at Interlachen.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how Inbee handles this,” Sorenstam said. “She has the major experience and she’s the No. 1 player in the world, so she’s not necessarily brand new in this role. ... We’ll see how she handles Sebonack and the conditions that await.”