Date: June 28, 2007

U.S. Women’s Open Preview

By Alistair Hogg Although nowhere near as tough as the recent men&aposs US Open at Oakmont, the women&aposs equivalent is far from a walk in the park. The prestigious event returns to Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club for the third time in 11 years and the par-71 layout will prove a stern test for the 156-strong field. Annika Sorenstam is back to defend her title after claiming the U.S. Women&aposs Open for the first time in 10 years at Newport Country Club in 2006. The Swede has just returned from an injury layoff and is still trying to recapture the form that has seen her capture 69 LPGA titles including 10 Majors throughout her career. Sorenstam is yet to find a win this year but has played just five events while struggling with ruptured discs in her neck. Despite this setback, the Swede knows what it takes to win and will be one of the toughest competitors on the course at Pine Needles. Another huge threat this week will be Australian Karrie Webb, but like Sorenstam, the Queenslander is yet to win on the LPGA Tour this year. Although Webb is the defending champion of the MFS Women&aposs Australian Open after triumphing at Royal Sydney in February. Undeniably one of the best female golfers of all-time, Webb won the U.S. Women&aposs Open at Pine Needles in 2001 and has finished first or second in three of the last six Majors she has contested. Webb is a fierce competitor and if in contention on the final day, she will be extremely difficult for the rest of the field to overhaul. Despite not yet breaking through for a Major victory, Lorena Ochoa goes into the event as strong favourite. The popular Mexican has topped almost every list on the LPGA this year including the Order of Merit and the World Rankings. Ochoa had Top-10 finishes in the Kraft Nabisco and LPGA Championships earlier this year but will be determined to rise to the next level and claim her first Major in North Carolina this week. Morgan Pressel will be another player to watch keenly over the coming days. The 19-year old became the youngest ever Major winner in LPGA Tour history with her one-stroke victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April. The Floridian is no stranger to the course either having played it at the 2001 U.S. Women&aposs Open as the youngest qualifier in tournament history. That record is set to be broken however with the qualification of Alexis Thompson, a 12-year old from Florida. Thompson carded rounds of 72 and 71 in qualifying this week to book her place in the main draw, overhauling Pressel&aposs record by more than six months. Her father Scott will coach and caddy while mother Judy will be there every step of the way in what might well be the feel-good story of the Open. Thompson has been grouped with American Angela Jerman and Amy Yang of Korea for the opening two rounds as the youngster gets her first taste of golf on the big stage. If trends are anything to go by then absolutely anyone in the field could win this week&aposs U.S. Women&aposs Open. Of the 14 LPGA events this season, 11 have been won by different players, indicating the breadth and competitiveness on the 2007 Tour. Only Suzann Pettersen and Ochoa have won multiple titles this year and there have been six first-time winners. Foxtel will be providing coverage of all four rounds of the Open (times are AEST). Round 1: Friday 29 June 9:00pm – 11:30pm (Fox Sports 3) Round 2: Saturday 30 June 8:00am – 11:00am (Fox Sports 1) Round 3: Sunday 1 July 8:00am – 11:00am (Fox Sports 2) Round 4: Monday 2 July 8:00am – 11:00am (Fox Sports 1) Round 4 replay: Monday 2 July 9:30pm – 11:00pm (Fox Sports 1)