- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

FORT WORTH, Texas — Welcome to Annika’s Alley.

Tradition-rich Colonial, where a bronze statue of five-time winner Ben Hogan greets everyone who passes through the front gates, turned into a massive cheering session yesterday for Annika Sorenstam on the eve of her PGA Tour debut.

Despite a steady, sloppy rain that cut short a pro-am round, Sorenstam had to walk through a wall of spectators just to get to the first tee.

From there, the view was unlike anything she has ever seen. The 565-yard hole was a colorful outline of umbrellas from tee to green, and thousands of fans — about half of them women — called out her name as she walked by.

“This was tremendous,” said Sorenstam, who was at least 1over par through 10 holes when rain stopped the round. “All the support I’ve gotten from everybody, to show up on a day like today is incredible.”

This is new territory for Sorenstam, and not just because she is the first woman in 58 years to compete against men on the PGA Tour.

When the Colonial begins today, it will be the first time Sorenstam has ever played a tournament she is not expecting to win.

The question is, what kind of score will it take to be satisfied?

“If I shoot level par, I’m going to be so pleased,” she said.

Even so, Sorenstam knows that won’t be easy. The course known as Hogan’s Alley is longer and tougher than any she has played in competition.

She also will be under more scrutiny than any player since Tiger Woods made his pro debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open.

She figures the circus following her every move is probably worth two or three strokes a round, a handicap she accepts.

“I’m not complaining,” Sorenstam said. “It’s something I’ve got to learn and deal with. It’s tough. That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

Sorenstam tees off at 8:58a.m. with Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber on the 10th tee. She will be the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play on the tour, and everyone is eager to find out how she scores and how she copes with all the attention.

Jay Haas said Sorenstam’s debut “might be bigger” than Woods’ first pro event.

“Was Tiger’s debut spread across the front page of the newspaper?” Haas said. “But it’s certainly different. Everyone was talking about Tiger dominating the tour, and they don’t think Annika is going to come out here and do that.”

What will she do?

Sorenstam might have gotten a break with the rain. While it will make Colonial play closer to its 7,080 yards, greens that normally are crusty and firm will be much more forgiving, allowing her to aim at the flag with long irons and her 7-wood.

She made her first birdie of the week on the 246-yard fourth hole, hitting her driver just short of the green and chipping in from 35 feet.

That put her 1under for her pro-am round, although she gave it back with a bogey from the bunker on the next hole. Sorenstam picked up on two occasions, facing a 6-footer for bogey on No.7 and a 4-footer for par on the par-3 eighth.

It doesn’t matter. Today does.

“If she could break 75 two days in a row, that would be pretty realistic, pretty impressive,” said Jesper Parnevik, a fellow Swede who played a practice round with her Tuesday.

“Making the cut, she has to play her very, very best — and some,” he said. “It’s probably the first time in her life that she comes to a tournament knowing she won’t win or [have] a chance to win. But it’s going to elevate her game to a new level.”

Others don’t think success can be tied to a score.

“It shows a lot about her that she wants to challenge herself like this,” Cameron Beckman said.

That’s all Sorenstam wanted when she asked for a sponsor’s exemption on the PGA Tour four months ago.

She isn’t trying to prove she can beat the boys. She isn’t suggesting that the LPGA Tour, where she has won 43 times and four majors, is no longer a challenge. Sorenstam says one week on the PGA Tour will be enough to satisfy her curiosity.

She only wants to see how her game stacks up against the best in the world on a stage that makes her more nervous than she was at her wedding.

“I’m just going to do the best I can,” she said. “And when I leave here Sunday, I know what I’ve got to work on, and I’ll do that.”


Sorenstam smiled.

“I’m very optimistic that I will leave Sunday, but we’ll see what happens,” she said. “If I play good, that’s all that matters to me.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide