Annika Says Goodbye to PGA Tour

By George WhiteMay 23, 2003, 4:00 pm
FORT WORTH, Texas -- It was at the second hole Friday when AnnikaMania reached its peak. Annika Sorenstam had just driven the ball to a perfect position, lofted it to the green exactly 7 feet 8 inches from a pin, and then drilled it into the heart of the cup for a birdie.
She was even-par for the tournament, 1-under for the day, and the crowd erupted in wild jubilation that would have made Tiger blush. Surely, oh surely, she would make the cut!
Alas, it was not to be. Sorenstam struggled most of the afternoon after opening with a 1-over 71 Thursday. If she could have just shot even-par Friday, she would have made it on the number. But Annika struggled to shoot a 74, finished at 5-over 146 -- 13 behind leaders Kenny Perry (64) and Dan Forsman (66) -- and was left with a world of great memories -- but little else.
Its been wonderful in so many ways, said Sorenstam. And I have learned a lot and experienced a lot. Its been a lot of pressure, a lot of emotion.
I want to come back tomorrow, though, she said, kidding a little though the tears that were welling up. But I gave it my all. I tried. I gave it everything I had. Its been a lot of fun from Monday. And Ive enjoyed every moment.
And now its over. She will never play the PGA Tour again. On that, she is adamant.
No, I wont reconsider, she told a room full of 400 media people. Im very thankful and honored to have been here, but I know where I belong. And Im going back with all the experience that I learned this week and I want to win tournaments, I want to set records and this week here is going to help me do that.
So why the tears come is, I dont know, I didnt want it to end.
She explained after a pointed question that the where I belong didnt refer to a womans place. But whether where her primary focus will be for the rest of her career.
I know where I want to play, she said. I know where I want to pursue my career and I do think that if a lady is good enough to either get an invite or if she went to (PGA) Tour school or Monday qualify, whatever, she should have a right to come here.
This is, I think, the tour for the best players in the world. And in my case, this is not something that I want to keep pushing and pushing. I know where I want to play.
But this has been an experience in so many ways. Im thankful that I was here.
It was ironic that she hit the ball beautifully Thursday but putted rather raggedly. Friday, she never did feel comfortable over the ball for long shots, but the front nine, she putted exceptionally well. Through the first seven holes, she had taken only nine putts.
But the fact that she was 1-over for the round, and 2-over for the tournament, was telling. As sizzling as her putter was, she still was losing ground. And in the end, the putting went south, too, she having to use it 32 times.
The real breakdown occurred, as it did Thursday, on the 470-yard par-4 fifth hole.
First of all, that is the hardest golf hole Ive ever played, Annika said. Every day I would dread coming to the tee.
You had to hit a nice little fade there. A long fade. And yesterday I hit it dead straight and it went down to the left and in the little area. And today I wanted to not cut the corner, but I wanted to hit a nice little fade to give me a good shot to the green. And the ball started a little more right and faded and hit the tree.
You know its a long hole when you hit driver, 8-iron, 8-iron. And its a par-4.
Sorenstam bogeyed the fifth, then bogeyed the seventh, and she never could get it turned around again.
It (was) mostly my approach shots on the front nine, she explained. And then, on the back nine, I think I hit it better, but I didnt putt as well. I had kind of lost the feel in my putter, in my lag putts. And that made it difficult to score.
It was an extremely enjoyable experience, she said, but at the same time extremely difficult.

Its been ' well, first of all, the attention is much more than I expected, she said. The course (was) a little longer, even though I dont think the length was a problem. Being under the microscope and then when I didnt really perform as well as I think I can, Im emotionally drained right now because Ive given it all I had.
And with the preparation Ive done the last few months, its been ' its wearing on me. But thats what I had to ' to come out here and perform my best.
But she finished like a true champion. After driving into the trees, she punched out and knocked her sand-wedge up to 14 feet.
She applauded the gallery for a wonderful week as she walked up 18. Then she cooly stood over the putt ' and knocked it right into the hole.
She flung the ball into the gallery, hugged both her playing partners, and choked back the tears. Then she disappeared into the scoring area.
Yeah, Ive climbed as high as I can, she said. And its worth every step of it. And like I said, I wont do this again. But I will always remember it.
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