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Annika Sorenstam still mulling decision to play first U.S. Women’s Open in 14 years

Annika Sorenstam isn’t ruling out playing in next year’s U.S. Women’s Open, but she isn’t scheduling it in, either.

The 72-time LPGA winner returned to the sport earlier this year after a 13-year hiatus and looked like she hadn’t missed a beat after winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Open by eight strokes while tying the event’s best-ever score, 276. With the victory, Sorenstam secured a spot in next year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, where she won her second USWO in 1996.

The 51-year-old Swede appeared on Golf Channel’s “USGA Championship Season Year in Review,” which first aired on Tuesday night. Rich Lerner asked Sorenstam if she will accept the invitation for next year’s USWO, citing Phil Mickelson’s PGA win, where at 50 he became the oldest major winner ever, as a reason she should attempt to become the oldest player - male or female - to win a major.

“Mickelson did it at the PGA Championship,” Lerner told Sorenstam. “No reason why you can’t do the same.”

While Sorenstam appreciated Lerner’s encouragement, she notes that Mickelson has played much more than she has since her retirement in 2008, as he has 276 combined Tour and senior tour starts compared to her two. And unsure if she can compete with the game’s young stars the way Mickelson does, she’s still mulling her decision for next June.

Annika Sorenstam ran away with the U.S. Senior Women’s Open on Sunday, closing with a 4-under 68 for an eight-stroke victory.

“First off, Phil, he plays a little more than I do,” she said. “He’s a little more active and a little more into the game.

“The young players are so good nowadays and they’re half my age and it would be difficult and I really wouldn’t do it for that reason other than just to be respectful of the invite. I’ve been to Pine Needles tons of times and I got to know Peggy Kirk Bell, so that place has a special place in my heart. Winning there in ’96 and there’s a lot of indicators that points towards going, but I don’t know, it would be very difficult. I have a lot of respect for the players today and maybe for other reasons, for my family and to be part of golf.”

“Talk it down all you want, we will talk it up all we want,” Lerner responded as Sorenstam chuckled.

At the end of the show, Amanda Blumenherst, a USGA champion herself by winning the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur title, said Sorenstam will eventually come to a conclusion.

“My bold prediction is Annika will play at Pine Needles for the 2022 U.S Women’s Open this year - this coming year,” she said. "[Sorenstam] says she might not, but after watching her play at the Gainbridge LPGA earlier this year (Sorenstam’s first start since ’08), she made the cut. Clubhead speed wasn’t where she wanted it to be, a little bit of rust, she was exhausted afterwards, wanted to rest for the Senior Open, which she won by eight. We’re going to see her at Pine Needles. I’m not going to say she’s in contention on Sunday, but she’s gonna make the cut. Any U.S. Open that Annika is playing is better for golf.”

Jamie Diaz, also one of the program’s co-hosts, took Blumenherst’s prediction a step further.

“I can see her being in contention, I think that much of her game,” Diaz said. “But I think with Annika, we can see her doing something like what Phil did at Kiawah Island at age 50. She’s that special. I can see her having another great moment.”

But for that “great moment” to happen, first, Sorenstam has to be in it, to win it.