May 31-June 2
US Women's Open golf championship
Sweden's Annika Sorenstam was catapulted into superstardom with last year's Open victory. Though a top contender, she is not the hottest golfer at Southern Pines, N.C., this week. Australian rookie Karrie Webb has that title, having won two 1996 tournaments and finished second twice while taking the tour lead.
May 31-June 8
College World Series
California schools have won the national title 19 times, including last year, when Cal State-Fullerton beat Southern Cal for the championship. No California team made the eight-team tournament this year, which has been held in Omaha, Neb., since 1950. The '96 Series has a distinct Southern flavor: Top-seeded University of Alabama is joined by Florida State, Clemson, Florida, Miami (Fla.), and Louisiana State, plus non-Southerners Oklahoma State and Wichita State.
Is there any stopping the raging Bulls? Chicago seems ready to win its fourth championship in six years. Whether Seattle or Utah will supply the opposition was undetermined at press time.
Stanley Cup finals
The Colorado Avalanche, backed by the NHL's best big-game goalie in Patrick Roy, takes on the winner of the Pittsburgh-Florida series. The Penguins have Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. The Panthers may be the league's hardest-working team.
Miller 200 (auto racing)
A week after the US 500, which shared the Memorial Day spotlight with the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar circuit, run by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), begins a two-month period with no competition from the rival Indy Racing League. Beginning with this race in Milwaukee, CART will hold seven events, all on national TV. The IRL returns Aug. 18 in Loudon, N.H.
US Open golf championship (men)
Storied Oakland Hills in suburban Detroit will put a premium on negotiating narrow fairways and slick greens and avoiding scrub-brush rough. Corey Pavin is the defending champion, but the venue changes annually. Nick Faldo, the Masters champion, has the hunger to win; Greg Norman is seeking redemption for his Masters collapse; and Phil Mickelson is the 1996 PGA Tour leader.
Track and field trials
The Olympic trials can be more pressure filled than the Olympics, since making it to the Games is an athlete's top priority. Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee must be "on" for this Atlanta meet in its new Olympic Stadium.
June 24-July 7
Wimbledon tennis championships
Thomas Muster, the king of clay courts, will try to silence critics who say he's a one-surface wonder. Wimbledon's grass, however, has been the favorite pasture of Pete Sampras, who will shoot for his fourth straight men's title. Steffi Graf, the defending women's champion, could get a serious run from Monica Seles, who is still looking for her first Big W title.
Tour de France begins
Cycling's premier event runs on the plains of the Netherlands, Belgium, and eastern France before encountering the Alps on July 7. The finish is July 21 in Paris.