What Colonial 2003 Really Meant

By Brian HewittNovember 18, 2008, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. ' What larger meaning, you seek to know now, should we take from 2003 Colonial? Who better to ask, you figure, than the woman seated to your right, the one who wanted needed to test herself against the men?
 
Annika Sorenstam is lunching sensibly on a salad at a back table in the dining room of her club in the fashionable and gated Lake Nona community near the golf mecca that is Orlando, Fla.
 
It is early November and she is just one week removed from a late season, come-from-behind victory in China that was followed by an appearance detour to South Africa. She has just emerged from a mid-Saturday morning business meeting and there is another one planned immediately after lunch.
 
She is accompanied by her fianc, Mike McGee. And, between bites, she says she cant wait for her 18-hour day schedule to contract to 12 hours.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Colonial was an emotional week for Annika Sorenstam. (Getty Images)
Coming Soon: Annika Steps Down.
 
The wedding is set for early January. So there are endless planning details. And there is a family to start after that. More immediately, there is a tournament in Mexico, another in Florida and one more after that in Dubai. All before Christmas.
 
But for now she is pausing to reflect. There are no microphones, no cameras and she is wearing no make-up. She is impossibly fresh, characteristically alert and, as the questions find a rhythm, coming from a private audience of two veteran golf reporters, she increasingly relaxes.
 
In the grand scale of a grand career, you ask, where should we place Colonial? Simultaneously and multi-taskingly, she chews on the question and the salad.
 
I think for the general public it opened up eyes that if you have a dream, then pursue it, she begins. And dont run away from challenges. I think that was just the message over-all. And it wasnt about the result; it was about the experience.
 
Her eyes brighten. It was the time in her life when she played her best golf. And she couldnt get enough of it.
 
The more motivated I got, the more I practiced, she says. And then, stepping up the practice routine at the Colonial, I practiced like a maniac. It was a wonderful stretch. I never thought about any consequences and the confidence level was as high as it could be. I just kept on going.
 
The whole sports world would be focused on Fort Worth, Texas, in May 2003. But worrying was something others would experience. Annika, 32 years old then, was too busy in the moment.
 
One impressionable young Mexican woman was at home in Guadalajara with her family that week. There they spent the better part of two days in a room with a television watching history being made by this Swedish role model and pioneer.
 
I was nervous like I was playing myself, playing that tournament, Lorena Ochoa says now. Every time Annika would go through her routine it was like, Cmon, you can do it. Cmon, you can make it.
 
The official name of that tournament was the Bank of America Colonial. It was where Sorenstam became the first woman since the legendary Babe Zaharias, 58 years earlier, to play in a PGA Tour event.
 
It was arguably the most observed occasion in the history of the womens game when you consider how powerful the international media glare was for those two days in May.
 
There was my mom, my dad, my brothers we were all pulling for her, adds Ochoa, who has since replaced Sorenstam at the top of womens golf. We were jumping on the couch. I will always remember that.
 
Thats what it meant, at the time, to a promising tour rookie who is now leaving her own vapor trail in womens golf. That's how excited they were. They were hopping around on the furniture.
 
A Hawaiian prodigy named Michelle Wie has since tried, and failed miserably, to leave a similar mark playing against men. Ochoa, for her part, has said she isnt looking for that kind of challenge.
 
But for every hard case tour pro like Scott Verplank, who recently said, There hasnt been a girl yet who can compete out here, there is another one like Dean Wilson.
 
Wilson wore a Go Annika button during Colonial week 2003. He and Aaron Barber (no longer playing competitive professional golf) and Sorenstam comprised the grouping the bulk of the crowds followed Thursday and Friday at Colonial. If Lorena has the opportunity to play against the men, Wilson said just last month, she should take it. I think theres still a lot of curiosity.
 
Even the flinty Verplank adds a qualifier. Hasnt been one yet, he repeats. But that doesnt mean there wont some day be one.
 
In many ways its hard to believe five years have passed since Sorenstam shot 71-74 at Colonial Country Club. She missed the cut by four shots that week but played well enough against the guys to prove she hadnt under-clubbed when she had quietly insisted she didnt have to overswing to reach her dream in regulation.
 
To be sure, mechanics helped. I think, PGA Tour veteran and fellow Swedish native Daniel Chopra said recently, Annika has one of the top five swings in the world. Male or female.
 
Actually, it was really quite remarkable how well Sorenstam stayed within herself on and off the golf course in a week where the crowds swarming around Colonial resembled, at times, a mob storming the palace gates.
 
When Sorenstam arrived at Colonial on the Monday of tournament week, her van driver didnt know how to access the back range. So she called Callaway rep Barry Lyda from the car for directions.
 
There are all these people here, she said.
 
Theyre here to see you, Lyda told her.
 
Lyda ordered the driver to stay put until he got there. Then he told Annika to lie down so the assembled crowds wouldnt see her.
 
What is happening? Sorenstam asked, looking up at Lyda as the van finally pressed forward.
 
History was happening.
 
Callaway had rented a house for Annika and several of its officials. We had to stay out of the restaurants all week, Lyda recalls. It was a nutcase world.
 
At the end of each day, they would cook up a pasta dinner and turn on the Golf Channel. Annika was glued to all of it, Lyda says, referring to the TV, not the pasta.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika was surrounded by media and fas throughout the week. (Getty Images)
One evening Sorenstam and Lydas wife, desperate from cabin fever, snuck out late for a Starbucks run. The barista took their orders and served them without incident.It wasnt until they got back to the house that Annika noticed he had written Go Annika on the bottom of her coffee cup. Later that week she snuck back out to the same Starbucks and personally delivered an unsolicited autograph.
 
Those stories are all true, Sorenstam says now.
 
In the end, she cared enough about her place in the game to measure herself against the best men, even if that meant exposing herself to the slings and arrows of outrageous second-guessing.
 
The operative word is cared. When Sorenstam announced earlier this year that she would be taking this hiatus of undetermined length, her caddie, Terry McNamara, received a call asking him to reveal something about Annika that he knew and the rest of us didnt.
 
She cares, he said. She cares about the people in her life. McNamara went on to say that Annikas natural shyness prevented more people from knowing that side of her.
 
And on this day at Lake Nona, Annika admitted that if she had to do it all over again she probably would have chosen to do more media training. If she had, more people might have known how much she cares.
 
McGee got emotional when asked to weigh in on the subject. He and McNamara had spent four hours over beers talking, laughing, and crying in a Chinese airport while waiting for their recent flight home. Sorenstam had already boarded her flight to South Africa.
 
We were sharing experiences about what a great person Annika is, McGee said, choking up all over again. Composing himself, McGee explained how it is about more than just care; how his fiancs concern for those close to her has an analytical side.
 
His words: She is so caring and so loving. What more can you ask of anybody than to know no matter what, if you went to her and she believed in your cause and that you were right, shed be there to help you? And if not, shed ask, Why do you think that? Shed want to figure out the entire situation. Shes just brilliant at assessing situations.
 
And not too bad at remembering things that matter. Like her first and last birdies at Colonial. The first one came at the 13th hole on Thursday. And five years later its still meaningful to her because, she says, The man in the family that owned the house (they were renting) had died in a car accident a few months earlier and his dream was to have his ashes poured over the 13th green. That still gives me goose bumps.
 
Annikas final birdie at Colonial occurred at the second hole Friday. Again, there was significance. Turns out Zaharias, dying of cancer, stopped and kissed the second green the last time she played Colonial.
 
More goose bumps. And that, to me, just ties everything in, Sorenstam says. I believe that some things just happen for a reason.
 
So by every standard, except the scorecard, Annika Sorenstam passed the tests of the 2003 Colonial. Tour veteran Olin Browne, a past champion at Colonial, sat down afterward and wrote Sorenstam a letter.
 
In it, he told her he had always been impressed with the way she carried herself.
 
She had missed the cut. But, for the record, Annika had posted the same 36-hole score as current successful PGA Tour players Tim Clark, Arron Oberholser and Heath Slocum. Among the players she beat that week were former Players Championship winner Craig Perks, former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, and former PGA Championship winner Mark Brooks.
 
Largely unreported was the story of how well the men accepted Sorenstams presence and treated her on the course and around the range that week.
 
Shes one of the people who gets it, Browne says now. She doesnt do anything half-baked.
 
Id like to meet her one day, adds recent Tour winner Cameron Beckman, happy to admit he is a fan of Sorenstams.
 
I used to love just watching her results, says Chopra.
 
I still think its a good thing that she played, Wilson says.
 
And maybe thats the final, good lesson of Colonial 2003: It wasnt just Annika Sorenstam testing herself against the men. It was the men having their own human qualities tested by the presence of a woman in one of their fields.
 
Annika would very much care for it to be known that they passed, too.
 
Related Links:
  • Annika: The Dominance
  • Annika Sorenstam Trivia
  • Annika Timeline
  • Best of Annika Photo Gallery
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.