So she got up to the No. 10 tee ' her first hole of the first round ' and cracked her 4-wood solidly down the middle. She followed the flight of the ball as it rose in the cloudy sky, then smiled broadly. She dipped her knees in mock relief, then pointed toward her caddie. For the first time in 58 years, a woman had struck a ball in a PGA Tour event.
Im very proud, said Sorenstam, who was doing something that no woman had done since Babe Zaharias in 1945 at Tucson. And she shot 1-over 71.
This has been an incredible week in so many ways, she said.
I feel like this is almost more than I can handle. So, therefore, Im just thrilled that Im in. On the first tee, I kept telling myself, Trust yourself, you can do it. I just had one swing thought, and that was to just take it easy from the top, and it worked all day. I kept saying that to myself over and over again. And thats what I needed to distract myself.
She was shorter than the men she played with ' something everyone expected. But she hit all but one of the fairways and she was plenty long enough to hit the greens in regulation.
The way this course is set up, these bunkers ' they come into play when I hit driver, explained Sorenstam. The guys I played with (Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber), they hit the ball farther. They can carry the bunkers.
So if I can carry over the bunkers, obviously I would love to do that. My strategy is just to stay out of the rough, stay out of the bunkers. And Im hitting 4-wood off the tee. And on No. 6 (393 yards), Im hitting 4-wood, 7-iron. And I would rather hit 7-iron from the fairway than 9-iron from the bunker.
So Im playing safe on a lot of holes. But that Ive got to do. This course is so much longer than Im used to and for the longer club in, Im shooting for the center of the green. So that was my strategy all day long.
As expected, her bugaboo was putting. She missed a six-footer that would have given her a birdie at the par-3 16th ' her seventh hole of the day. She three-putted No. 5 (her 14th) from in excess of 50 feet, missing a six-footer for par and making bogey. And at her final hole of the day, she three-putted from off the green, missing an eight-footer for par.
Annika totaled 35 putts, but used the putter 37 times. Two times she pulled the putter from off the green. One of those times, she made birdie.
But those mistakes were countered by excellent tee shots throughout the day -- as seen in her accuracy off the tee. And she showed an uncanny knack for delivering her approach shots to the green.
Im very content with my round, she said in reflection. Yeah, in a perfect world, I left a few putts out there. But under the circumstances, I knew I was going to make some mistakes, and if these are the mistakes I make, Ill take them.
She met every challenge and excelled beautifully. At the Horrible Horseshoe, where the holes are 476 yards (No. 3), 246 yards at the par-3 fourth, and 470 yards (No. 5), she survived in 1-over par. And she beat Fulton Allem, one of her biggest detractors, shooting 71 to 75 for Allem.
Duffy Waldorf said it wasnt a gender issue, though.
A lot of people think this is a mens vs. women issue, he said. I dont. I consider it a competitive issue. And I obviously want to do as well as I can. I got to play the golf course, and then at the end, we add them up and see who has the lowest score.
But honestly, Im not playing directly against them. I consider her to be just another competitor in the field.
Sorenstam doesnt want it to be a gender issue, either.
I knew that Im here to play for myself and Im on my own and Ive got to do it, Annika said. And when I came here Im not afraid of the challenge. Im nervous, and I knew I was going to be nervous. But Im not afraid. Because at the end the day, its just a game. Im very thankful and feel lucky that I do what I love to do.
Wilson and Barber were extremely supportive of Sorenstam, and she said that made the ordeal much easier. They spoke to her often, keeping her nerves from getting the best of her. She said she wants to thank them ' publicly.
We said a lot of things, but one thing that I will always remember is Aaron (Barber) came up to me on the putting green today and he said, Remember, were in this together, said Annika. And I said, Youre right.
So he was as nervous as I was. And he asked me, When is this going to go away? And I said, I dont know.
Its the same on every hole. I thought that was pretty sweet of him. But also, we talked a lot and he said, This is great preparation for future tournaments. And I told him, This is what youll see when you go in the last group at the Masters.
And he laughed, and I laughed, and it was fun.