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Posted: Friday, May 23rd 2003 at 7:42pm

Sorenstam misses the cut in PGA Tour debut

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Annika Sorenstam
FORT WORTH, TEXAS - Annika Sorenstam ended her experiment on the PGA Tour the same way it started: making a pressure-packed shot in front of an enormous, cheering gallery.

Nobody knew what to expect before Sorenstam striped her opening drive into the No. 10 fairway to start her first round and become the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour.

By the time Sorenstam ended her historic appearance in the Colonial with a 15-foot par putt Friday, the fact she missed the cut by four strokes didn't matter.

"I'm far away from the leaderboard. That's obvious," said Sorenstam, who shot a 3-over 74 for a 5-over total. "But I'm very proud of the way I played all week under all of the circumstances."

Under intense scrutiny in an atmosphere only Tiger Woods could appreciate, Sorenstam showed she could hold her own against the men - at least for a couple of days. And she did it on a course longer (7,080 yards) and tougher than any she had ever played in competition.

Sorenstam broke down in tears as she walked off the green to a raucous and well-deserved ovation. She cried as she signed her scorecard, realizing that it was all over.

"Being under the microscope and then when I didn't really perform as well as I think I can, I'm emotionally drained right now because I gave it all I had," she said. "That's what I had to do, come here and perform my best."

She teed off Thursday morning amid resounding cheers, before and after her opening drive went 243 yards in the fairway past playing partners Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber - granted the PGA Tour rookies used irons for their first shots.

Late Friday afternoon, her group the last to play the 18th hole, Sorenstam approached the green to a standing ovation from the thousands of people crammed around the hole.

Sorenstam responded by holding her hands above her head and applauding them. Then, having gotten her third shot on the green after a wayward tee shot into the trees, she made the par-saving putt.

Second round co-leader Kenny Perry was among those impressed with how Sorenstam handled things. Again, the score didn't matter.

"I played with Tiger two times last year ... and the media scrutiny was really intense out there," Perry said. "I performed very poorly. My hat's off to her. I think she did a great job."

Sorenstam wound up 13 strokes behind Perry (64) and Dan Forsman (66), who at 8 under took a one-stroke lead into the weekend. She tied for 96th, with the same score as four other players and better than 11 others who finished the first two rounds.

Sorenstam said she wasn't trying to prove anything to anyone, least of all that she could beat the boys. The Colonial was a chance to test herself at the highest level.

Now she wants to take what she's learned back to the LPGA Tour, where she has already won 43 times.

"I know where I belong," she said. "And I'm going to go back with all the experience that I've learned this week. I want to win tournaments and I want to set records. This week here is going to help me do that."

That begins next week when Sorenstam tries to defend in the LPGA's Kellogg-Keebler Classic outside Chicago at Stonebridge County Club, a par 72 that measures 6,237 yards. She finished at 21-under 195 to win by 11 strokes last year.

Sorenstam opened with a 71 on Thursday, not going over par until a bogey on the last hole. She was 1 under through four holes Friday, saving par from the sand on the first and third holes - and holing an 8-foot birdie at No. 2.

Then she had three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and made the turn at 3 over. Her chance of missing the cut was gone after a pair of three-putts - from 30 feet on the 10th, and almost 50 feet on No. 12, when her short par putt lipped out and sent her to 5 over.

"I think it was just too much pressure to put on one person for one or two rounds of golf," said Wilson, the only one in her group to make the cut at 2 under. "But she played great. She carried herself incredibly well. She's got a lot of game."

Barber missed the cut after a second-round 74 that left him at 6 over, a stroke behind Sorenstam.

Babe Zaharias was the last woman to compete on the tour, in 1945. She made the 36-hole cut in the Los Angeles Open, but failed to qualify for the final round. She also played in Tucson and Phoenix, making the cut both times.

Suzy Whaley will play in the Greater Hartford Open in late July, having qualified through a tournament for club pros.
Associated Categories: Sports News

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