Swedish Support for Sorenstam Swells

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Tom Sorenstam plans to watch his daughter play at the Colonial from his home computer in Sweden.
 
He and the rest of the country are hoping that Annika Sorenstam can make the cut this weekend in Texas, where she will be the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
 
Not since the days of tennis ace Bjorn Borg and Alpine skiing great Ingemar Stenmark has a Swedish athlete generated more headlines.
 
'We hope she'll handle the pressure,' Tom Sorenstam told The Associated Press by telephone from Bro, just northwest of Stockholm. 'I'm not nervous. I think she will do well.'
 
He plans to watch Annika live on the Internet because cable television in Sweden will not show the whole tournament.
 
Even if his daughter doesn't make the cut, Tom Sorenstam said the only thing that matters is that she performs on 'a competitive level with these players.'
 
Mona Sahlin, Sweden's minister for sports policy, said she would send Annika Sorenstam a personal greeting before she tees of Thursday.
 
'I think what she's doing is tough and brave. Go Annika, go!' Sahlin said.
 
Sorenstam may be challenging her own ability, but to this nation of 8.9 million, taking on the men means much more.
 
'This is no longer just 'a fun thing,'' sports columnist Peter Wennman wrote Tuesday in Aftonbladet, one of Sweden's biggest newspapers. 'This is business, sports history, gender war and mass media hysteria. It's Annika Madness.'
 
Sweden has the highest rate of women lawmakers in the world -- 45 percent of Parliament -- and has long been a champion of women's rights globally. Men and women are considered equals in nearly every field, at home and work.
 
To many Swedes, Sorenstam is setting an example for female athletes and challenging prejudices about gender differences.
 
'I really hope she does well,' said Gabriella Karlsson, 23, an assistant nurse. 'I get so angry at the guys who try to put her down. They're just scared that she'll beat them.'
 
Goeran Engstroem, a 39-year-old banker and leisure golfer, praised Sorenstam's 'guts' but he wasn't optimistic about her chances.
 
'She's going to be close, but I don't think she'll make the cut,' he said, rocking a stroller where his 3-month-old daughter, Anna, slept soundly.
 
Related Links:
  • ''Everything Annika'' Feature Page
  • Annika and the Colonial Timeline
  • Full Coverage of the Bank of America Colonial
     

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