Swedish amateur Ingrid Lindblad, playing alongside Annika Sorenstam, cards record-breaking 65 to lead U.S. Women’s Open

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SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. – Amateur Ingrid Lindblad first met Annika Sorenstam eight years ago when she competed in the ANNIKA Invitational Europe. The next year, the young Swede played in the ANNIKA Cup. Fast forward to 2022, and a 22-year-old Lindblad got the shock of her life when she was paired with Sorenstam for the first two rounds of the 77th U.S. Women’s Open. Lindblad was 8 years old when Annika retired from the LPGA.

“Then, on the first tee box,” Lindblad said, “I get her scorecard. I’m like, I have Annika’s scorecard in my hands.”

While many would’ve been overwhelmed completing alongside a 10-time major winner, on a course where Sorenstam won her second of three U.S. Women’s Open titles 26 years ago, Lindblad played the best golf of her life.

Her history-making 6-under 65 at Pine Needles is the championship’s lowest 18-hole score by an amateur. Three amateurs have posted 66: Carol Semple Thompson (1994), Brittany Lincicome (2004) and Gina Kim (2019).

Last year, then 17-year-old amateur Megha Ganne co-led after the first round with Mel Reid after firing a 67 at The Olympic Club. Only one amateur has won this championship, Catherine Lacoste, in 1967. Lindblad first learned of that stat earlier this week at an amateur dinner.

It’s not lost on her that the record-setting $10 million purse includes $1.8 million to the winner. (Lindblad can’t receive any prize money this week because of her amateur status.)

When asked if there were any regrets that she didn’t turn pro this week, she smiled and said, “When you say it, yeah, it’s … it would have been fun to win a little bit of money, but I think I’m going to stay in college for a little bit more.”

Annika Sorenstam, left, congratulates Ingrid Lindblad on the eighth hole after they completed their first round at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. on Thursday, June 2, 2022. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

The LSU junior is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Rose Zhang and has largely toiled in the American’s shadow. Even so, Lindblad has won nine times at LSU including this year’s SEC Championship, where she drained a 38-foot eagle putt on the final hole to clinch the title. She’s the 2021 European Ladies Amateur champion and finished in the top 3 of both the NCAA Championship and Augusta National Women’s Amateur this year, closing with a 4-under 68 at Augusta National.

“It was nice to walk with her, but she was fearless,” said Sorenstam, who opened with a 3-over 74. “It’s fun to watch.”

In addition to Sorenstam, Lindblad had another Swedish champion on her bag in Solheim Cup veteran Sophie Gustafson, who won five times on the LPGA. Lindblad said she didn’t have a caddie for the week and the Swedish national coach introduced the pair.

“I think I looked at her Instagram,” said Lindblad, “but I was like, ‘Whoa, she’s won a couple times on tour.’ ”

Ingrid Lindblad and her caddie Sophie Gustafson discuss strategy on the 12th hole during the first round at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. on Thursday, June 2, 2022. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

A couple of major champions – Minjee Lee and Anna Nordqvist – trail Lindblad, one of 29 amateurs in the field, by two strokes after the first round. Lexi Thompson, who suffered great heartbreak at this championship last year after a late-round collapse at Olympic, opened with a 68.

Sorenstam, playing in her first LPGA major since 2008, described young Lindblad as quite bubbly. When Lindblad won the ANNIKA Invitational in 2019 in St. Augustine, Florida, she was flying out of Orlando but didn’t have a ride. Sorenstam offered to give her one, and mostly listened to the outgoing teen.

“I think people see her as a long hitter, but I’m sure you saw her today,” said Sorenstam, “some of those chip shots she hit, especially here on 18, that was not an easy one.

“She just kind of stood there, really good touch, and she putted beautifully today, good speed. Everything was really – I was really impressed.”

When not working on her world-class game or studying, Lindblad likes to work on puzzles of at least 1,000 pieces and watch TV. Friends in the U.S. call her “Iggy,” though she’s not really sure why.

Can an amateur win this again?

“Yeah, it’s possible,” said Lindblad rather convincingly.

LSU coach Garrett Runion notes that his star player likes bigger crowds, bigger stages and the rush that follows. No European has won this championship since Sorenstam captured her third Women’s Open title in 2006.

“We’re still in the first quarter,” said Runion, “but I know she’ll give it a shot.”