An anticlimactic finish to a transcendent two-day run

5/28/2003 - Annika Sorenstam

Sorenstam's hole-by-hole scores | Second-round recap
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Annika Sorenstam established her chops on Thursday with ball-striking so pure that the white slacks she wore never came near the mud that lurked off the fairways at Colonial Country Club. She hit all but one fairway and missed no green by more than three feet. Forget the rarity of a woman doing that. Few men have done that at Colonial, at least since Mr. Hogan played here.

Reaching that level of proficiency for one round is difficult. To do so on the day after, with the entire golf world continuing to watch every shot, proved too much to ask.

An anticlimactic air hung as thickly as the humidity at the Bank of America Colonial on Friday afternoon, and that was before Sorenstam shot a 4-over 74, which gave her a 36-hole score of 5-over 145, four strokes too many to play on the weekend.

"Today, I didn't feel like I played my best," she said afterward, "and I scrambled to a 74. It's far from making the cut. I know that. But this is my first chance. And sometimes, you've got to do things over and over again to get good at it (sic)."

That said, Sorenstam reiterated her stance that she didn't foresee herself playing on the PGA Tour again. "I know where I belong," she said, "and I'm going to go back with all the experience I learned this week, and I want to win tournaments, I want to set records, and this week is going to help me to do that."

Sorenstam finished tied for 96th, ahead of 11 golfers, including Bob Estes, the 16th-ranked player in the world, who finished at 147, 2002 Players champion Craig Perks (150), and 1996 PGA champion Mark Brooks (146).

When her last putt, a 14-footer for par at No. 18, dropped, so did the guard that she had used to protect herself from the tension and emotion of the last three months. After Sorenstam hugged her caddie, Terry McNamara, and her playing partners, Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber, she wiped away her tears, first with her right hand, then with her left.

"I'm glad I did it, but this was way over my head," she said on USA Network immediately after her round. "I wasn't as tough as I thought I was."

Asked whether the course, the competition or the atmosphere were "over her head," Sorenstam said, "All of the above." She went on to discuss the scrutiny she has been under for the last three months. But she also said, "It's been wonderful in so many ways. I've learned a lot and experienced a lot. It's been a lot of pressure and a lot of emotion."

She cried several times during her press conference, enough that a volunteer quietly placed a box of Kleenex at Sorenstam's feet. It may be her personality, and it may be her Swedish background, but Sorenstam reveals her emotions about as often, well, as she misses the cut.

"Why the tears come, I don't know," she said, and lowered her head in an attempt to rein her runaway ducts. "I didn't want it to end. The guys I played with were so nice." She teared up again and puffed out a little breath to try to relax. Later, when she cried again as she tried to answer why the spectators pulled so hard for her, she said, "I'd rather have a 3-footer."

Sorenstam played before a larger gallery Friday than she did on Thursday morning, a testament to her drawing power, and the drawing power of an early start to a holiday weekend. They stood seven and eight deep at the first tee when Sorenstam entered the tee box about 10 minutes before her 1:43 p.m., CT tee time. One woman at the front said she had been standing there since noon, watching the eight previous groups tee off, so that she would be in position to see Sorenstam.

A woman at the second hole held up a sign that said, "Heja Annika, Duar Bast!," Swedish for "Hey Annika, You're the Best!" Another sign said, "Du Ga Flicka," which, as we all know, means, "You Go Girl."

It took only three swings for Sorenstam to show that her game would not be as crisp as it had been in the first round. From the middle of the fairway, 128 yards out on the 565-yard, par-5 first hole, Sorenstam blocked her approach into the back right bunker.

She got up and down for par, birdied the 400-yard, par-4 second hole with a 7-foot putt, then got up-and-down for par again on the longest par-4 of the course, the 476-yard No. 3.

On the fifth tee, however, Sorenstam began her slow slide down the scoreboard. The 470-yard, narrow par-4 bends sharply to the right. Sorenstam drove through the dogleg Thursday and ended up making bogey. On Friday, she tried to hit a fade down the right side that would finish in the middle of the fairway. However, she started it too far right, right down the property line that separates the club from the Trinity River. A friendly tree knocked the ball straight down instead of out of bounds.

"That is the hardest golf hole I've ever played," Sorenstam said. "Every day, I would dread coming to the tee. ... You know it's a long hole when you hit driver, 8-iron, 8-iron and it's a par-4."

Sorenstam saved bogey by making a 14-footer. She has a reputation of being a golfing hemophiliac. Once she has a bad hole, another one isn't far behind. Bogeys on four of the next seven holes followed before she stopped the bleeding. An uphill pitch at the sixth hole checked up 18 feet short of the hole, and she missed the par putt. A three-putt bogey from 58 feet -- the pin stood at the back of the two-tier green, and her five-iron stopped on the front -- followed at the par-3 eighth.

Sorenstam made the turn in 37, 3-over for the tournament, and two strokes off the cut line. The suspense ended quickly. Lipout par putts at the 10th and 12th holes sealed her fate.

"Maybe the putting was not so good," her teacher, Henri Reis, said afterward. "I think it was better today than yesterday ... The rhythm, the tempo (of her swing) was not so good today. She was a little quick. She tried too much. Maybe she was tired."

Barber, who finished one stroke behind Sorenstam, said, "I know it (drained) me, so it had to drain her 10 times that."

Sorenstam's participation in the Colonial has become an international inkblot test on gender attitudes, so let the Saturday-morning quarterbacking begin. Sorenstam said that several players who had negative reactions to her came up to her this week and said that they were proud of her.

"I guess some of them will say, 'I told you so,'" said Dan Forsman, who's tied for the lead with Kenny Perry at eight-under, said. "Others will say she had a heck of a tournament. Give her huge kudos and congrats for the way she played. Others will say she's just nothing but class. And frankly, I'm in that camp."

Forsman, recalling that Sorenstam referred to Colonial as her Mount Everest, said, "It's Hogan's Alley. I think it's Annika's Hill. ... I think that we can add that along with Hogan's Alley. Yes."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.