Annika makes two birdies, doesn't keep 18-hole score
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Women's world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam kicks off her LPGA campaign this week, but already has half an eye on the Colonial tournament at the end of May when she will take on the top players in the men's game.
Sorenstam's round with Tiger,
John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.
In addition to her practice round at Colonial Country Club last week, Annika Sorenstam also teed it up with a foursome at Isleworth Country Club that included Tiger Woods and Atlanta Braves players John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.
Their exact scores are not known, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Smoltz beat Sorenstam by at least a couple strokes.
"Two, four . . . whatever," Woods said Tuesday at the Bay Hill Invitational. "But Smoltzie's good. He's a 1-handicapper. I think he shot 2- or 3-under on the front nine. So, he played good."
Woods estimated that Sorenstam shot a few over par, and described her to the AJC as "a little rusty."
Sorenstam said her round with Woods was fun, and have her "a chance to see what he's all about, his game, see how he practiced, and he gave me some pointers. It was very friendly. We had a good time."
Of her Atlanta Braves partners, Sorenstam said: "They were hitting it past Tiger, which I didn't expect. Not straight, mind you. All over the place."
The Swede, who dominated women's golf last year, enjoyed a practice round with former Colonial winner David Frost at the Forth Worth course in Texas at the weekend.
"Colonial wasn't really in tournament condition, but it was still great to get the chance to see it and play with David," she said at Moon Valley, where she starts her season on Thursday.
"I was messing about and didn't keep score, but I reckon if I can make even par for the four days then that will be a good result."
Frost told Golfweek after the round that he thought Sorenstam would have trouble breaking Colonial's par of 70 at the tournament and would be pressed to make the 36-hole cut at the event.
"The best score of the day is usually 65, 66, 67," Frost said. "I think it will be hard for her to break par. She's going to have to play very well to make the cut. There are certain holes where guys can go at the flag with a wedge where she can't with a 7- or 8-iron because the ball won't spin and stop. Colonial is the kind of course you can't go at flags because the greens are so hard.
According to Frost, he used a club or two less than Sorenstam on iron shots from the same distance.
"She was learning her way around," he told Golfweek. "We had a nice Wolf game and she was able to relax and see the course. She has talent and she is not one who gets rattled. She doesn't try to overpower the ball, but she's not short. She's longer than people think she is. She can give it a whack."
She also teed up with men's world No. 1 Tiger Woods in Florida recently.
"He has been very supportive," she said. "Playing with him gave me a chance to see his game and he also gave me a few pointers. It's all a very important learning experience and I hope to play with more of the guys in the build up to May."
Sorenstam, who won 13 times worldwide last year, said she had been shocked at the amount of interest her invitation to take on the men had generated.
She is the first woman to play on the PGA Tour since Babe Zaharias took part in the 1945 Los Angeles Open, but does not envisage that it will become a regular occurrence.
"Colonial is a one off opportunity," she said. "I want to test myself and face a new challenge. But it is on the LPGA Tour that I still want to set records. That is my priority.
"I'll play Colonial and then we'll go from there. But I've not even thought about taking part in other PGA Tour events. At the moment, I've got enough to deal with preparing for that one week. I'm considering Colonial to be my fifth major this year."
In the offseason, Sorenstam took a long break from golf but continued a punishing schedule in the gym that has helped increase her driving length to an average of 270 yards.
"I've been working out for the past two years and it has helped add 25 yards to my drives and ten yards to the irons," she said. "That's what has made this adventure against the men possible. Two years ago, I would never have even considered it."
There will be an enormous amount of pressure on Sorenstam's shoulders -- and the danger of a poor performance.
"But whatever happens, I will walk away on Sunday having had a huge learning experience," she said. "And, whatever happens, I don't think it will reflect badly on the LPGA. Otherwise, I wouldn't do it."
Sorenstam's LPGA colleagues, she says, have been mostly supportive.
"Nancy Lopez called to wish me luck and said she would have loved to have had the same chance when she was at her best," said Sorenstam.
Se Ri Pak and Britain's Laura Davies have also indicated that they would also have snapped up the chance if asked, although Australian Karrie Webb, Sorenstam's predecessor as world No. 1, was not keen.
"I would not want to do it," she said. "I feel there is enough pressure trying to achieve on the LPGA Tour without going down another road."
This week, Sorenstam is bidding to win the Safeway Ping title for the second time in three years -- last year she lost in a playoff to Australia's Rachel Teske.
It was when she won at Moon Valley two years ago that she shot her historic 59 -- the first sub-60 score by a woman.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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