By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - World number one Park Inbee will face a new level of pressure at next week's U.S. Women's Open championship as she goes for her third major crown of the year, according to 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam personally experienced the intensity of such a chase when she came to the 2005 U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills in Denver after winning the Kraft Nabisco and LPGA Championship, just as the South Korean has done this year.
"I've been in her shoes," Sorenstam said in a conference call on Thursday set up by the Golf Channel. "I had a chance to go for the third major in a row. It was a lot of pressure.
"I wanted to not necessarily ignore it, but I was trying to not let it get to me. I wanted to just focus. It's another major. It's the U.S. Open, and at the time, I had won two before, and I thought, you know, I can do this."
Park has also already won a U.S. Open, notching her first of the three majors on her resume by winning the 2008 championship at Interlachen in Minnesota at age 19 to become the youngest ever winner of the event.
Sorenstam said she loved Cherry Hills and felt confident.
"I thought, this is a perfect week for me, perfect venue, and I felt ready to play and I was excited. But there was this underlying pressure," said Sorenstam.
"I just put a lot of pressure on myself and I would say that I was probably pushing it too hard, especially not getting off to a good start and then you tried harder. And as you know when you try harder, it almost makes it tougher."
The 42-year-old Swede, who will be doing TV commentary for next week's Open at Sebonack on New York's Long Island, said keeping the major streak alive weighed on her as she tied for 23rd.
"It was in the back of my mind constantly," she said. "And the media buildup before that was pretty big, also. I was trying to balance my time on practice, but stay focused and just kind of show up like it was a new week and a new tournament.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how Inbee handles this."
Besides the building pressure to add another major, there is the difficulty of the competition itself in a course set-up that is often the toughest the women face all year.
"Most of the U.S. Opens are longer than our regular events. The greens are a little firmer and the rough is a little higher," Sorenstam said.
"It doesn't mean that you won't see that at other events, but if you put them all together, you have ... a U.S. Women's Open."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)