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 “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 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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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 10:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 1: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

Group 13: (61) Kevin Na def. (13) Alex Noren, 4 and 2: The biggest upset from the early matches came here, as Na turned a close contest into a blowout. The two men were all square after 11 holes, but Na won three of the next four and then closed out the match when Noren conceded on the par-5 16th.

Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.

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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

“Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

“He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1