Remembering Sorenstam's experience at Colonial

By Randall MellMay 20, 2013, 12:15 pm

Annika Sorenstam’s missed cut at Colonial remains the defining moment of her career.

That’s because of the profound way the experience redefined her and the way she will be remembered.

Looking back this week on the 10th anniversary of her PGA Tour appearance at Colonial, Sorenstam is still moved at how those two rounds in Fort Worth, Texas, did more to shape her game and how she carried herself than any of the 72 LPGA titles and 10 major championships she won.

“It was a turning point for me,” Sorenstam told GolfChannel.com. “It’s one of the highlights of my career.”

When she makes public appearances today, Sorenstam, 42, is asked more about missing the cut at Colonial than any other aspect of her Hall of Fame career.

“Ten years later, I still hear new stories surfacing from people who drove from everywhere to be a part of it, who say they were inspired by it,” Sorenstam said. “I hear from parents with daughters who say it really showed them that if they have a dream, they need to follow it. I think people connected with it because they could see themselves, that if they wanted to achieve something, they have to face their fears and take the opportunities that are there for them.”


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Colonial was Sorenstam’s Mount Everest.

In that respect, even as a missed cut, it was a conquest, but not in the way you might think.

It was never Sorenstam’s ambition to conquer the men’s game. This was all about conquering fear, pressure, doubt and all the other obstacles that stood in the way of taking her game to greater heights.

It wasn’t about making the cut. It wasn’t about making history. It wasn’t about showing the men anything.

Sorenstam says it was about climbing beyond what she dreamed possible.

“It was a time of my life where I was No. 1 for a while, and I was looking for ways to get better because I knew inside I could get better,” Sorenstam said. “I wanted a little extra spark to get me there.”

So, at 32, Sorenstam accepted a sponsor exemption to play the event at Colonial Country Club, the course known as Hogan’s Alley. The decision didn’t come without risk. She would, after all, become the first woman in six decades to tee it up in a PGA Tour event, the first since Babe Didrikson Zaharias played in the Tucson Open in 1945. Predictably, a small furor followed Sorenstam’s decision to play. There was backlash over the idea that a woman was competing against men.

Vijay Singh led the vitriol.

“She doesn’t belong out here,” Singh said at the time. “If I’m drawn with her, which I won’t be, I won’t play.”

Singh did withdraw, even though he wasn’t paired with Sorenstam. Defending champ Nick Price called Sorenstam’s appearance a publicity stunt. Even some of Sorenstam’s LPGA colleagues questioned the wisdom of playing.

“Her quest puts the LPGA in a tough spot,” American tour pro Angela Stanford wrote in a first-person piece in Sports Illustrated at the time. “We have more to lose as an organization than Annika has to gain as an individual.”

Stanford was right. If Sorenstam flopped, it would be a black eye for the entire women’s game.


Annika Sorenstam at Colonial in 2003

Click here or on picture above for photos of Sorenstam at Colonial in 2003.


Looking back today, Sorenstam said she expected some push-back.

“It didn’t faze me a bit,” Sorenstam said. “This was a very unusual situation. It was something no other woman had done in 58 years. I think when there is something new, some people will embrace it, some people will question it, and that’s what happened with some of the players. I wasn’t worried about that.”

Tiger Woods, who occasionally practiced with Sorenstam when they both lived in Orlando, was impressed at the way she handled herself under the kind of scrutiny few players outside Woods experience.

“She was playing so well at the time,” Woods said. “She was winning everything. Her confidence was high, and I thought what she was doing for the sport of golf and for women was absolutely incredible. It took a lot of courage to do that, and to put herself out there on the limb like that, and put herself out there in front of the world to critique, criticize and anything in between. She did it, and she played fantastic.”

Back in Sweden, where Sorenstam grew up, a 16-year-old girl named Anna Nordqvist was riveted watching the Colonial. Nordqvist was still relatively new to the game, having picked up a golf club only three years earlier.

“It was a huge deal,” said Nordqvist, a two-time LPGA winner. “Growing up in Sweden, we didn’t get to see many tournaments on TV, but I remember watching Annika hit her first tee shot and thinking, `Wow, a female athlete from Sweden is conquering the world, dominating the women’s game and playing against the men.’ She was a huge inspiration for me.”

For young women around the world, too.

“I remember thinking how really cool it was,” said Brittany Lincicome, a five-time LPGA winner who also was 16 when she watched Sorenstam play Colonial. “I idolized Annika, and she was inspiring to watch. To have the courage to compete against the men spoke volumes about what a great athlete she was.”

Aaron Barber and Dean Wilson, a pair of PGA Tour rookies, were randomly paired with Sorenstam at Colonial by a computer.

Sorenstam said Barber and Wilson became like brothers to her in those two days. They could still feel the bond when they were recently reunited at Colonial to film a Golf Channel special commemorating the 10-year anniversary. “Go Annika” will air Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Looking back today, Barber says Sorenstam’s motivation was misconstrued.

“Everything was so misunderstood right away,” Barber said. “It wasn’t a publicity stunt. I think the people who didn’t rush to judgment and stood back and listened to what she was saying, they understood she was playing for the right reasons. She was just so much better than everyone else in the women’s game, and she just wanted to challenge herself, test herself.”

Barber knew there was no baloney to her stated purpose after she birdied the fourth hole in the first round they played together. She was 1 under and actually on the leaderboard. Barber told her he believed she could compete on the PGA Tour.

“She said, `No, no, no, there’s no chance I’ll play more, no matter what happens this week,’” Barber said. “She said she totally underestimated the kind of circus it would be. When you heard her say that, you knew she wasn’t doing it for the publicity.”

But there was so much publicity.

Sorenstam’s popularity soared. She would make appearances on 'The Tonight Show' with Jay Leno, NBC’s 'Today Show' and CBS’ '60 Minutes.' She was in People magazine and threw out the first pitch at a Mets game.

Barber said the publicity was good for him, too. As soon as word hit that he was going to be paired with Sorenstam, Barber picked up a hat, shirt and bag endorsement deal.

“When we met, Annika apologized for bringing us into this,” Barber said. “I told her she shouldn’t feel sorry for me. I made more money in endorsements because of that pairing than I made the rest of my career.”

Barber played one more year on the PGA Tour after being paired with Sorenstam. Today, he’s a financial planner for Ascend Advisory Group. He’s married with three children ages 10, 6 and 3. Wilson lost his PGA Tour and Web.com Tour status but is still working to make his way back.

Sorenstam shot 71 and 74 at Colonial and missed the cut by four shots, but she made it interesting. She got herself on the cut line in the second round before her putter started failing her on her final nine. She tied for 96th, besting 11 men.

Looking back, Sorenstam has more vivid memories of how the tournament began than how it ended. She will never forget the circus that greeted her before her first tee shot (No. 10) in the first round at Colonial.

USA Network went on the air at the crack of dawn to televise her round. Media from around the world were there to document it. Record crowds poured onto Colonial’s grounds.

“I remember all the people,” Sorenstam said. “Rows and rows and rows of people. There were people hanging in the trees, and there were so many cameras.”

And more pressure than Sorenstam ever felt before.

“I knew I was going to give it my best, but I was nervous I might not get my ball on the tee,” Sorenstam said. “I was shaking.”

Waiting to play, Sorenstam turned to her caddie at the time, Terry McNamara, confiding just how nervous she was.

“I have never felt like this,” she told him. “I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.”

Moments later, she was striping her first tee shot straight down the middle.

“I can still see it,” Sorenstam said. “There was so much adrenalin, I hit it a mile all week.”

Walking off that first tee, Sorenstam playfully let herself go for a moment, intentionally acting as if her knees were buckling with nerves. The galleries in golf had never seen Sorenstam letting go like that before. They loved it. They loved her all week.

That wasn’t lost on Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who watched on TV. She still remembers Sorenstam’s wobbly walk and smile off the first tee. Lopez saw it as the beginning of a transformation of Sorenstam’s persona.

Shy and almost ruthlessly cold as a competitor, Sorenstam was different at Colonial. She opened herself to fans in a way that she never did before. They embraced her, and she embraced them back.

“Before Annika went to Colonial, she didn’t have the same connection with the fans that she had after Colonial,” Lopez said. “I think a lot of players believe they can’t let go of the moment when they’re playing, that they have to stay focused for 4 1/2 hours. I think Annika was like that, but at Colonial, when she hit that first shot, the crowd reacted to her, and she reacted back.

“And then when she got to the next shot, she was able to concentrate and focus. She saw she didn’t have to be focused every moment on the course. I think she left Colonial with a different attitude.”

Sorenstam left feeling more confident opening herself to the public.

“I learned a lot about myself,” Sorenstam said. “When I first joined the LPGA, and I won the U.S. Women’s Open, the tour was starving for somebody to fill Nancy Lopez’s shoes. I found that very hard. I don’t think anyone can fill Nancy Lopez’s shoes.”

But after Colonial, Sorenstam became more comfortable letting people see who she was.

She also felt a resolve she never felt so fully before.

“I felt like if I could handle this pressure, I could handle any pressure,” Sorenstam said.

After leaving Colonial, Sorenstam won 23 times in 30 months. As a player, she was stronger, and as a personality, she was never more fully developed and sure of herself.

“I talk about the event when I do public speaking,” Sorenstam said. “I talk about how we all come to crossroads in our lives. It might be a career-changing path, or marriage plans, or some difficult medical decision. Whatever it is, it’s easy to fear something will go wrong, but you have to look at the positives and forge ahead. What happened at Colonial made me stronger.”

In that regard, missing the cut didn’t ultimately matter. Sorenstam walked away with what she really wanted in the experience. She left Colonial with immeasurable strength gained.

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.