Sorenstam tests out Colonial, shoots 75
by Associated Press
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Annika Sorenstam got a sneak peek at the Colonial Country Club golf course Sunday and found out how tough it can be.
Sorenstam, the world's top-ranked female golfer, shot a 5-over-par 75 in her first round at Colonial. When she competes in the Bank of America Colonial in May, Sorenstam will become the first female to play in a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias competed in the Los Angeles Open in 1945.
Sorenstam called upon the insight of 1995 Colonial Champion David Frost, who played in the group along with Sorenstam's husband, David Esch; Colonial tournament director Dee Finley; and Colonial Country Club president Jim Thigpen. The group played from the back tees, from which the course measures more than 7,100 yards.
"She hit the ball well," Finley said. "It was a good first time around the golf course. She was seeing some parts of the golf course that she needed to see."
Although Sorenstam won 11 LPGA Tour events last year, her foray into competition with the world's top men has been hotly debated. At Colonial last year, golfers needed to shoot a two-round total of 143 or below to survive the cut. If Sorenstam had posted two rounds of 75, she would have missed the cut by seven strokes. The Golf Channel reported that onlookers said Sorenstam had two chances for birdies on the three-hole stretch known as the "Horrible Horseshoe."
"It was pretty much as I expected," Finley said. "She was exploring the golf course, hitting a few extra balls, seeing what clubs to hit off of the tees. It was just a casual, fun round."
Finley said Sorenstam expects to return to Colonial for one more practice round before the tournament. The warm weather Sunday was optimal as a trial run for the Bank of America Colonial -- warm and sunny, with a light breeze.
Sorenstam, who is from Stockholm, Sweden, finished in the top 10 in 20 of 23 LPGA events she entered in 2002. She also set an LPGA scoring record with a 68.70 average. However, she will have to play from the men's tees at Colonial, which lengthens the course about 600 yards from those she typically plays. Colonial, a par-70, is shorter than many PGA courses, which should be advantageous for Sorenstam.
Finley, asked if he expected Sorenstam to make the cut at Colonial, said: "I can't guess that. I'm just a lawyer, and I play some amateur golf. She sure is a fine golfer, and she hits the ball straight, so she's got a chance."
Among those who have already committed to compete at Colonial this year are Rich Beem, the reigning PGA champion, and Nick Price, the 2002 Colonial winner.
Finley said both he and Sorenstam have been surprised by the extensive interest in Sorenstam's planned participation at Colonial.
"I thought both (the public and the media) would find it intriguing and interesting," said Finley, "and be interested in the outcome. But I had no idea it would be as extensive as it has."