Former Open champions have mixed results

Juli Inkster, a two-time U.S. Women's Open winner, got off to a rough start Thursday with a 7-over-par 79. AP Photo/Scott A. Miller

KOHLER, Wis. -- So what kind of opening round was it at Blackwolf Run on Thursday for some U.S. Women’s Open former champions?

It was pretty great for three-time winner Annika Sorenstam. She’s now doing television commentary for the tournament and didn’t have to worry about solving these large, pesky greens. In 1998 when the Women’s Open was last here, Sorenstam finished tied for 41st and didn’t much enjoy this course.

Karrie Webb, who won this title in 2000 and ’01, is trying to follow up on what was a pretty strong LPGA Championship performance last month, when she finished tied for sixth. Webb shot 75 Thursday.

Two-time winner Juli Inkster, who now represents the 50-and-over crowd, shot a 7-over 79. She’s in danger of missing the cut for the fifth time in her last six Open appearances. Still, it’s not too bad of a score, really, when you consider she’s only recently come back from elbow surgery.

Inkster, by the way, fared worse here 14 years ago than Sorenstam: She didn’t make the cut. But, all these years later, Inkster is still playing.

So is South Korea’s Birdie Kim, although you may wonder how much joy she’s been getting out of it. Kim made an amazing bunker shot on No. 18 on the final day to win the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills in Denver. That remains her only LPGA victory, and after struggling the last three years, she’s now on the Symetra [Futures] Tour.

In five Women’s Open appearances since her victory, Kim has missed the cut four times and tied for 16th. With her 9-over round of 81 Thursday, she likely needs other plans for this weekend.

The past five Women’s Open winners -- So Yeon Ryu [74], Paula Creamer [73], Eun-Hee Ji [76], Inbee Park [71] and Cristie Kerr [69] -- are all still in mix after the first round.

And so is the former champ in this year’s field whose title came the longest time ago: 1998 winner Se Ri Pak. She won here at age 20, and this course is a place of some of her greatest memories.

Pak shot even-par 72 Thursday and said, “I'll try to hang in there the next three days, and hopefully I will have another big smile.”