DEREK LAWRENSON: Annika Sorenstam returns to the scene of her faultless US Open triumph 26 years ago

Over the past 30 years, the three women golfers who left the most lasting impression on me were Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie West and Nelly Korda. All three will be back in the news this week at an epochal edition of the US Open, staged at Pine Needles in North Carolina.

Sorenstam, now 51, is returning to the scene of arguably the greatest of her 10 major championship wins, and one of the 10 best performances from either man or woman that I’ve been privileged to witness.

The year was 1996 and Greg Norman had just blown a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo at the Masters.

Annika Sorenstam has won three US Open titles but has not played at the event for 14 years

Annika Sorenstam has won three US Open titles but has not played at the event for 14 years

But the Swede showed how it should be done, winning by the same margin with a performance as close to flawless as any golfer can reasonably expect.

She barely missed one of the narrow fairways in 72 holes and her iron play was immaculate. Tigeresque is what it was, as she completed a successful defense.

With no worlds left to conquer, Sorenstam retired early and had a family. She started playing again because her two children di lei, now in their early teens, had only seen her win di lei on YouTube.

So she returned and walked away with the US Senior Open at the first attempt last year to earn an exemption for this week.

The greatest European golfer of all time? Sorenstam has to be on the shortlist.

Her victory at Pine Needles was the first time a winning prize of $ 200,000 had been awarded, out of a total prize fund of $ 1.2million. The tournament enters a new era this week with the winner’s prize now standing at $ 1.8m, following a $ 4.5m hike in the overall number to $ 10m, as the sport seeks to make up for lost time when it comes to fairer treatment for women.

Sorenstam won last year's Senior US Open to allow her to compete at Pine Needles this year

Sorenstam won last year’s Senior US Open to allow her to compete at Pine Needles this year

Michelle Wie West is set to step aside from golf after this week's event despite being just 32

Michelle Wie West is set to step aside from golf after this week’s event despite being just 32

Like Sorenstam, Wie West’s appearance will be a nostalgic one, even though she is only 32.

After a career wracked with terrible injuries and self-doubt on the greens, she plans to step aside following this event.

She knew the game was up when her wrist was so tender following one tournament, she could not pick up her own child. No wonder she thinks enough is enough.

Her 2014 US Open win at Pinehurst – barely a 10-minute drive from Pine Needles – will go down as her finest achievement.

But anyone who was in Hawaii when the then 14-year-old played off the same tees as the men in a PGA Tour event, and only missed the halfway cut by a single stroke, is entitled to believe that sometimes failure can carry the greater glory.

Now the woman charged with leading the sport is another statuesque figure with a swing of virtually unrivaled grace.

Nelly Korda, 23, is playing for the first time since suffering a blood clot in her arm in March

Nelly Korda, 23, is playing for the first time since suffering a blood clot in her arm in March

Korda is playing for the first time since suffering a blood clot in her arm in March, which followed a nasty bout of Covid in January. Let’s hope this is the end of her ailments di lei and she enjoys better luck than Wie West.

It promises to be quite the occasion, therefore, amid the sand hills and pine needles where Sorenstam delivered a performance for the ages.

A dream duo in the making?

I know a lot can change in 18 months, but Europe clearly have an almighty task on their hands if they are to continue their unbeaten 30-year run on home soil in the Ryder Cup in Rome next year.

On the PGA Tour on Sunday, the dominant American twenty-somethings continued their vice-like grip of the weekly prizes, as the increasingly impressive Sam Burns collected his third title of the season at the Colonial Invitational in a play-off against world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, who was seeking his fifth.

These two are best mates and shared an apartment growing up. Now they’re sharing first-place riches, claiming almost $ 18million between them already this year. They have all the makings of yet another formidable American four-ball partnership.

Scottie Scheffler (L) and Sam Burns (R) will make a formidable partnership at the Ryder Cup

Scottie Scheffler (L) and Sam Burns (R) will make a formidable partnership at the Ryder Cup

French police needed the Tulsa touch

Reading all the appalling stories of Liverpool fans being robbed and mugged as they came out of the Stade de France on Saturday, I recalled a conversation I had a week earlier with a member of the Tulsa police department.

He was explaining how, in conjunction with the PGA of America, they had put ‘significant’ resources into policing the area around the Southern Hills venue for the US PGA Championship because, like the French stadium, it was situated on the edge of an area of high crime.

‘The last thing we wanted was anyone coming to Tulsa and feeling unsafe,’ he said. Consequently, not a single crime was reported and not a single visitor felt unsafe.

Not hard, is it? The great French footballer Thierry Henry warned weeks ago about the dangers of Saint-Denis, the suburb in which the Stade de France is situated.

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