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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

World's No. 1 female golfer shoots 71 in PGA's Colonial

By Stephen Hawkins
Associated Press

Annika Sorenstam and playing partner Dean Wilson, who was raised in Kane'ohe, before they teed off on the 10th hole — their first — of the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, for the first round of the Colonial Invitational.

Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Annika Sorenstam has made history. Now she's trying to make the cut.

Still, no matter what happens today in the second round of the Colonial Invitational, the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years has accomplished most of what she set out to do.

"Personally, I came here to test myself. I'm very proud of the way I was focusing and the way I made decisions and stuck to them," Sorenstam said after her opening 71 yesterday. "That's why I'm here. I wanted to see if I could do it. That's all that matters to me."

At 1-over par, Sorenstam proved — at least for a round — that her game stacked up against the players on the men's tour.

"It looked like the way she's playing, she could easily compete on this level," Phil Mickelson said after his 67.

Sorenstam's first-round score was in the middle of the pack, but better than Sergio Garcia (72), Tom Lehman (73) and two dozen others. Defending champion Nick Price, who said her appearance on a sponsor's exemption "reeks of publicity," also had a 71.

Sorenstam was tied for 73rd , with the top 70 and ties advancing to the final two rounds. She will play this afternoon, when tougher conditions are expected as the 7,080-yard layout dries out.

Can she make the cut?

• What is "the cut?": At most regular PGA Tour events, the field is cut after the first two rounds of play. At the Colonial, which started with a field of 112 players, the cut is determined by the low 70 scores plus ties after the second round (today). Only the top 70 finishers and ties will advance to the weekend.

• What score will Annika need?: Par is 70 at Colonial. The past 10 years of the tournament, the highest score to make the cut was four over par (144). The lowest was even par 140 in 1997. After the first round, the projected cut is even for this year's event. So Sorenstam, who shot 71 yesterday, would need to shoot 69 today to reach even par. The cut number could change depending on the rate of scoring today.

• What does Annika have to do today? She needs to putt better. While she drove the ball with amazing accuracy yesterday, she used 33 putts. She'll need to get that number down to 29 or 30. That should keep her from being over par for her round, as long as she keeps up her great driving. Her accuracy keeps her out of the rough and trouble.

— USA Today

Rory Sabbatini took advantage of a soft course after two days of rain for an opening 64. He led by one stroke over Mark Calcavecchia and Patrick Sheehan.

With a gallery that stood a dozen deep and strained to see every shot, Sorenstam showed how she has become the most dominate female golfer in 40 years. She won 13 times in 25 tournaments around the world last year.

She missed only one fairway at Colonial. And on the four greens she missed, she was close enough to use her putter.

"She wanted to experience this Tiger mania, if you want to call it that, because she thinks that's going to help her in the future," said Jesper Parnevik, a fellow Swede.

"When she comes to the next major, it's going to be like playing a Wednesday pro-am for her. So she just wants to go through all of this and see how she handles it."

Yesterday, she handled everything like a champ.

Sorenstam might have been nervous all day — "My heart was beating, I felt a little sick in my stomach, my hands were sweaty," she said — but she never played like it.

"She's a machine. She's awesome," said Aaron Barber, who played with Sorenstam and had a 72.

Dean Wilson, who was raised in Kane'ohe, was the other PGA Tour rookie in the group and shot a 71.

"I'm not ashamed to lose to her," Barber said. "It's only 18 holes, too."

The loudest cheer of the day came at the par-3 13th, where Sorenstam made her only birdie with a 15-foot putt from just off the fringe on her fourth hole of the day. She pumped her first, kicked her leg and pointed to her caddie.

She stayed under par for 10 more holes, until three-putting from 60 feet at her 14th hole, the 470-yard fifth. That was the only fairway missed, but she then managed to get to the green from the right rough.

Sorenstam didn't go over par until missing an 8-foot putt on her finishing hole, the 402-yard ninth.

"I didn't miss really a shot. Yeah, I missed some putts, but most of it was speed," she said. "This probably would be, I would have to say in the 60s on my tour."

Sorenstam missed four birdie putts inside 15 feet.

The last woman to play on the PGA Tour was Babe Zaharias in 1945. The last time there was this much interest in one round was when Woods made his pro debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.

Fans began gathering around the 10th tee nearly an hour before Sorenstam started her round. They crammed into a clubhouse balcony, on a grassy hill to the right of the tee, and covered every inch of rope from tee to green.

Hundreds of fans wore "Go Annika" buttons and held up signs urging her on. There was even the odd cry of "You Da Woman!"

"I teed off 10 minutes behind her, and everybody out here is watching her," Sheehan said. "Everybody else is kind of under the radar."


• Toms withdraws with bad back: Right when David Toms was hitting his stride, he injured his back yesterday morning and was forced to withdraw from the Colonial.

"I felt a little twinge this morning, but I stretched it out and it was feeling OK," Toms said. "I hit my drive and about went down to my knees."

Toms played out of the hole — he made par — but realized he couldn't hit any more shots and walked in.

Coming off a solid season but without a victory, Toms finally got back on track with a dominant victory in the Wachovia Championship two weeks ago. He followed that with a tie for sixth last week at the Byron Nelson Classic.

His plans?

"Go home and see the doctor," Toms said.

He was not planning to play next week at the Memorial, so Toms will have three weeks to get ready — and get healed — for the U.S. Open.

• Second-place surprises: Patrick Sheehan wasn't even planning to be at the Colonial, and never played the course before this week. Mark Calcavecchia hurt his wrist last week and got just 18 holes over two rain-shortened rounds before play started.

Both are just a stroke out of the lead after opening 5-under 65s.

"I was actually going to take a week off," Sheehan said. "This is my sixth week in a row. Just last week I hit the wall, I was so tired on the weekend. I just wanted to go home."

Sheehan finished 72nd last week at the Byron Nelson Championship. But after Nelson winner Vijay Singh withdrew from Colonial and several other players pulled out, that left a spot for Sheehan.

"When I found out I was that close to getting in, it would have been a shame to miss a tournament like this," he said. "With Annika here, regardless, it's still a tournament that you play in."

After a bogey at No. 5, Calcavecchia had three straight birdies. He had seven birdies and two bogeys overall.

"There's a long way to go. I'm certainly not thinking about winning yet," said Calcavecchia, who got the last of his 11 PGA Tour wins at the 2001 Phoenix Open.