(Helsingborg, August 17 2002) Over nineteen thousand spectators witnessed World number one Annika Sorenstam extend her lead to six shots heading into the final round of the £325,000 Compaq Open. The Swede returned a flawless four under par 68 to reach 15 under par on another sweltering day at Vasatorp GC.
But determined to chase her all the way to the £40,750 first prize is England’s Laura Davies, winner of the P4 Norwegian Masters two weeks ago, who carded a rollercoaster, yet profitable six under par 66 to sit alone in second position, while compatriot Johanna Head endured a frustrating day with her putter to card 16 pars and two birdies for a 70 to sit one shot back on eight under.
However, the most bizarre round of the day belonged to Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson who racked up almost every score imaginable in her level par 72 to clutch onto fourth place on seven under.
Four players share fifth place on six under including Germany’s Elisabeth Esterl, Spaniard Ana Belen Sanchez, Sweden’s Cecilie Ekelundh and Scot Mhairi McKay, who lowered the course record to 65 with nine birdies, including five in a row on the front nine, despite beginning her day with a double bogey seven!
Sorenstam, aiming for her eighth win of the year, is not showing any signs of letting up or being complacent about the final round. A solitary birdie at the eighth saw her turn in 35, but back to back birdies from the tenth and closing with a simple two putts from 25 feet at the final hole saw her in a commanding position.
“It’s possible to be caught, but if I keep playing as well as I can, it will be tough for anyone,” said Sorenstam, winner of this title in 1997 and 1998.
“Not dropping any shots today was encouraging and I want to keep going like that tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Davies knows that she can beat the Swede as long as she didn’t get too far ahead.
The 38-year-old from Surrey started and finished with three birdies in a row and lobbed in an eagle at the 11th where she drained a 30-foot putt. Her three bogies did not concern her.
“It was a very solid round of golf and my poor shots was only caused by poor thinking,” said Davies, who is on the verge of qualifying automatically for The 2002 Solheim Cup.
“Three birdies to start and three to finish with a nice little eagle in the middle was great. To end up six under is great. It’s a big ask to beat Annika, but it can be done. A good start at the first tomorrow, make eagle and you never know what might happen.
“As long as Annika didn’t get too far ahead it can be done. If she did get six or seven ahead, I might have to shoot 50 something!”
And with Dale Reid taking a close look at possible Solheim Cup players, including Davies, the big hitting Briton was unperturbed by her presence and even gestured to Captain Reid to look at the 18th green scoreboard.
“If Reidy doesn’t know my game by now, she never will. What people tend to forget is that I won two weeks ago and even missing the cut at Turnberry. That was just one hole, the 17th and if I got that right, I might have played the weekend and fired a few birdies and finished well up there.”
Head despaired with her putter during her 70 and despite not holing anything significant, she aims to remain patient.
“It’s still frustrating, but they are going to drop soon,” said the 28-year-old, who finished tied second behind Sorenstam at Barseback in the 1998 Compaq Open.
And Gustafson endured the full gamut of emotions in what has to be the most bizarre round of the week, if not the season.
The 28-year-old from Saro amassed seven birdies, an eagle two at the 13th, holing from 90 yards on her second shot, a double bogey, three putted three times and notched up a quadruple bogey seven at the seventh hole.
“It hurts when you play like that, it was a bizarre day on the course,” said Gustafson, currently seventh on the 2002 Solheim rankings and who is desperate for a high finish on Sunday to secure her Solheim place in September.
McKay, an affable 27-year-old from Glasgow, was delighted with her day’s work:
“The first hole was pretty ugly but the rest was pretty good and I’m delighted to shoot 65 around here,” said the Scot, who is hoping to claim one of Dale Reid’s wild card picks for The 2002 Solheim Cup.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a pick and I am just going to concentrate on my golf, all I can do is play well. I’d love to be there but I am trying not to think about it.”