- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2003

We would like to see an Annika encore. The Sorenstorm fizzled out in very unsatisfying fashion yesterday afternoon at Colonial, leaving at least some in the golf community yearning for a little more data and a little less hype. Sure, Sorenstam was heroic to the end at Hogan’s Alley, jarring a 12-footer for par at the last to scratch out a second-round 74. And perhaps both her shills and skeptics will leave Fort Worth, Texas, with smiles on their faces. The Anni-Cans, who have been crowing about Sorenstam’s skills since February, will point to Thursday’s 71 and claim Colonial 2003 as the latest athletic salvo in the sexual revolution. The Anni-Can’ts will point to yesterday’s shaky round, which left her four strokes adrift of the weekend cut, and smugly suggest a two-day trip was inevitable. In truth, neither side has sufficient evidence for celebration. OK, fine, call Colonial a draw, and let’s start planning the tiebreaker. Tiger Woods said it best last week when he was asked about the 32-year-old Swede’s PGA Tour debut: “I think it would be more fair to her if she could play four or five tournaments — then you could judge on those results. In one tournament, anything can happen.” What happened was fatigue found her sometime between Thursday morning and yesterday afternoon. From the moment she pushed her opening approach into the bunker guarding the first green yesterday, Sorenstam didn’t look like the same methodical ball-striker who dissected the layout on Thursday. Her backswing was fast. Her head was halfway to Austin by the time she made contact on most shots. And frustration bubbled to the surface much quicker that usual when she began to stumble. “She just looks fried to me,” said Patty Sheehan, who has seen Sorenstam play as much golf as just about anybody. And why wouldn’t she be? Thursday’s round must have been extremely cathartic after 14 weeks of hype. She spends the better part of three months dealing with pressure, both external and internal. Then she shows up in Fort Worth, and the spotlight gets even brighter. She finally gets on the course, and she performs beautifully, basically hitting every fairway and every green en route to a 71 that could have easily been 67. She calls it the round of her life on Thursday afternoon. And then 24 hours later, she’s right back out there again looking for the rewind button. “I’m not sure she had a lot left,” said playing partner Dean Wilson. “But it’s safe to say that what she had she left out there.” She certainly left a few strokes on the 7,080-yard, par-70 layout. First, she deserted the conservative fairways-and-greens gameplan that served her so well on Thursday, firing at tucked pins from the start on a track that frowns on aggressive play. With no room for error and fatigue closing in, her swing finally started completely breaking down at the fifth, where she hit a drive so far right it might have carried the Trinity River had some trees not gotten in the way. From Nos. 5-12, she flubbed two pitch shots, almost whiffed a fairway wood (No.11), missed four greens and three-putted three times. The result was five bogeys and a Friday afternoon ride to DFW. Is she really that helpless with a wedge? Is she really that incompetent with the blade? Or should we say contraption, since her putter looks like a 1a.m. infomercial purchase, though it is quite popular on both tours. Or was she just too physically and emotionally spent to perform yesterday? Fact is, we’ll never know unless she plays in a few more events. She could play the Buick Classic (June16-22) at Westchester (6,722 yards), join qualifier Suzy Whaley at the Greater Hartford Open (July21-27) at TPC at River Highlands (6,820) and then complete her experiment at the 84 Lumber Classic of Pennsylvania (Sept.15-21) at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (6,832). None of the three conflict with women’s majors. All three are shortish by PGA Tour standards, yet don’t historically produce birdie bonanzas. All three could certainly find her a sponsor’s exemption. And 600 members of the media certainly won’t make the triple-jump with her. But Sorenstam reiterated yesterday that one trip to the big tour was enough. “I’m glad I did it, but this has been way over my head,” Sorenstam said. “I’ve got to get back to my tour where I belong.” She seems satisfied. She played out the dream for a week. She beat 11 guys who finished two rounds. While she was selling Mercedes and Kraft and Callaway, maybe she also sold a few young girls on golf. It was indeed a fun ride. We just can’t help wondering if it’s really time to get off.

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