A different kind of round

Updated: May 23, 2003, 3:57 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Dean Wilson had never hugged one of his playing partners at the end of the round. Aaron Barber can't remember ever high-fiving an opponent after a great shot.

OK, so you act a little different when playing with the No. 1 female player in the world.

The PGA Tour rookies were Annika Sorenstam's playing partners Thursday in the first round of the Colonial, when she became the first woman in 58 years to play on the men's tour.

When Sorenstam made a 15-foot putt off the fringe at the 178-yard 13th, their fourth hole and her only birdie, she reacted by pumping her fist. She then got the celebratory hand slap from Barber, who was two strokes behind her at the time.

''You can't help but root for her. She's so nice and she plays so solid out there,'' said Barber, an eight-year pro who didn't earn his first PGA Tour check until two months ago.

Sorenstam finished 1-over 71, her only two bogeys coming in the last five holes. That matched Wilson's score and was one stroke better than Barber, who had two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.

''I'm not ashamed to lose to her, she's awesome,'' Barber said. ''It's only 18 holes, too.''

After the group putted out on the last green, Wilson -- who had a two-birdie, three-bogey round -- spoke briefly with Sorenstam and then got a hug, as did Barber.

''I just told her I was so proud of her,'' said Wilson, who had made only six PGA starts before this season. ''Just the way she handled herself, the way she obviously played with all the attention that she's been getting this week and it's just been a circus for her. Once she got inside the ropes, she was in her element.''

Barber and Wilson had looked forward to playing with Sorenstam since finding out Tuesday that they would be grouped together the first two rounds. Their names were selected randomly by a computer, drawn from the category of players who haven't won or finished in the top 125 on the money list.

They knew Thursday wasn't going to be a normal round. They found out right away, wading through a crowd of people stacked as many as 12 deep just to get to the first tee.

''I just got goosebumps out there. The crowds were so awesome,'' Barber said. ''Obviously they were keying on Annika. And it was just cool to see. It was great preparation for when I'm in the last group on Sunday or I get paired with Tiger.''

The fairway on their starting hole, the 404-yard No. 10, was lined with spectators. Huge crowds watched at every hole.

''A little bit of a circus with so many people,'' Wilson said. ''That's the first experience for me with all that. But a great experience playing with Annika.''

They get to do it again Friday when they begin their second round at 2:43 p.m. ET at the No. 1 tee. And they will all be trying to make the cut.

''There's absolutely no reason why she can't,'' Wilson said. ''She's such a good player. If she had just a few more putts drop in today, she would be under par easy.''


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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