looking to reclaim US Open
Women's Open begins on the Fourth of July. It rarely ends with an American
holding the trophy.
Only one American has won this country's national championship
in the last seven years. There has never been a more appropriate time for another
to win it.
The 57th Open gets under way at Prairie Dunes on Thursday, America's
``It sure would be nice if an American won this week,'' two-time
champion Patty Sheehan said. ``It would be a great tribute to American golf and
to the American people. I know they would get a big kick out of it -- or a big
Sheehan won the U.S. Open in 1992 and 1994. Since then, the only
American winner has been Juli Inkster in 1999. Sweden's Annika Sorenstam won in
1995 and 1996, England's Alison Nicholas in 1997 and South Korea's Se Ri Pak in
1998. Australia's Karrie Webb won the last two years.
Sorenstam, Webb and
Pak have become the big three on the LPGA tour, a triumvirate that has been tough
for Americans to break. They have won nine of the 15 LPGA tournaments this year,
including the last five, and both majors that have been played -- the Nabisco
Championship (Sorenstam) and LPGA Championship (Pak).
The last American
to win on the tour? Laura Diaz at the Corning Classic on May 26.
Karrie and Se Ri are the three to beat and until we beat them, they are the favorites,''
Inkster said. ``But four rounds of golf, I think we have a good shot.''
might be the best hope to give America's tournament an American winner.
has finished in the top five in her last three tournaments, including a tie for
second last weekend at the ShopRite Classic. Inkster won the Chick-fil-A in early
May and has finished in the top 10 three other times. She's fourth on the money
list this year with $538,545.
``I hit the ball well enough to play out
here,'' Inkster said. ``If I get my putter going, I feel like I've got just as
good a chance. To win a U.S. Open, you've got to get some breaks and good lies
in the rough when you do hit it bad.''
Inkster has experience in handling
Prairie Dunes' compact, undulating greens and windy conditions, winning the U.S.
Amateur on the course in 1980. She didn't remember it being particularly windy
then until talking to her husband, Brian, earlier this week.
`It's howling here,''' she said. ``And he said, `Juli, it howled every day you
The wind swirls around the foreign players, too, but they
keep winning. Why? Inkster thinks it might be because American kids grow up doing
``It's kind of like myself raising my kids,'' she said. ``They
do soccer. They do softball, basketball, swimming. I think the foreign players,
they pick a sport and they do it and they do it at an early age, whether it be
golf, gymnastics or swimming. They don't do everything.
``Which way is
right or wrong? I have no idea. But that's kind of the way I was raised. I played
all sports. I just happened to get a job at the golf course and that's why I started
American Dottie Pepper isn't surprised that foreign golfers
keep winning the U.S. Open. The best golfers win the Open, she said, and right
now the best happen to be from Sweden, Australia and South Korea.
that could all change in four days,'' Pepper said. ``Let's hope it does, actually.''
Inkster isn't alone among American hopefuls.
Beth Daniel has played
well recently and finished second at the LPGA Championship after leading through
three rounds. Diaz has struggled after her Corning victory but is third on the
money list. Cristie Kerr has a win this year and ranks ninth in earnings.
thinks more Americans eventually will be contending in the Open because golf is
becoming cool again among U.S. youth.
``I look at all the girls and all
the young kids out there watching us,'' Inkster said, ``and if it can become cool
to play, I think we're going to get, maybe not this era, but next era there's
going to be a lot of good young American players and I think it's going to be
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