BOSTON — When the US Women's Open last visited the Pacific Northwest, women's pro golf didn't exist. That was 1946 in Spokane, Wash. Beginning tomorrow, the Open's return to the region will be celebrated during four rounds at the Pumpkin Ridge course outside Portland, Ore.
This is the same layout where Tiger Woods, in 1996, won his third consecutive men's US Amateur title, rallying from two down over the last three holes.
If the current tournament can produce nearly as much drama, organizers should be happy.
To their delight, an interesting angle already exists, namely Annika Sorenstam's pursuit of a third straight US crown. No woman has ever accomplished that and only one man - Willie Anderson (1903-05) - has done so.
Sorenstam, a shy Swede who became the US collegiate champion playing at the University of Arizona, has soared to stardom since winning the 1995 Open during her second year on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.
LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts says Sorenstam's "story has been somewhat lost." Much media attention, of course, focuses on the phenomenal Woods, who won again last week at the men's Western Open. Sorenstam, however, has as many 1997 victories (four) and has been the more consistent, with three seconds and four thirds in the 13 tournaments.
During the past two years, Sorenstam and Australian Karrie Webb have formed a Nicklaus/Palmer-like rivalry. Webb, the tour's 1996 Rookie of the Year, displaced Sorenstam as the top money leader in '96, but Sorenstam won her second consecutive Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average per round (70.47 strokes).
This year, Kelly Robbins of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., has moved into the hunt, closing on No. 2 Webb in the season-long LPGA race by winning last week's Jamie Farr Kroger Classic with the lowest 72-hole score (265) ever for a tour event.