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
  • Getty Images

    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

    @kharms27 on Instagram

    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

    @radiosarks on Twitter

    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”