Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Sorenstam bags 71 on historic day

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , FORT WORTH, TEXAS

In golf, you sign a scorecard to attest to the numbers after you finish the round. But on Thursday Annika Sorenstam signed what she later called "a bunch of scorecards" as she waited to tee off at the Colonial. Nobody had to tell her why.

"Because of this historical moment," she said later.

And when the world's best female golfer signed her own scorecard after completing 18 holes in 1-over-par 71, the moment was even more historic. On a rain-softened 7,080-yard course that played 200 to 300 yards longer, and in the pressure cooker of being the first woman in a modern PGA Tour event, it's the most memorable round of golf ever played by a woman. It's also the most memorable 71 by anyone.

Send her scorecard to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Even better, put it in a time capsule. Not for the score. For the situation. And for the adulation.

"I'll never forget the amount of people on the first tee and how positive they have been all day," she said later. "It's so much fun to play in front of crowds like this. I'll never forget this day in my life."

Neither will anyone who walked in her gallery -- no matter what she does, better or worse, in Thursday's second round in her bid to make the 36-hole cut.

When thousands cheered as Sorenstam's 7-iron soared 176 yards toward the green on her final hole, a woman's voice was heard shouting, "I couldn't see, but that was a great sound."

And when her gallery surged toward the green at No. 8, a gray-haired Colonial marshal shook his head.

"I've been on this hole 15 years," he said, "and I guarantee you, this is the biggest gallery I've ever seen. Even when Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite" -- two popular Texans from Austin -- "were in the same group."

Perhaps the best female golfer ever, Sorenstam always seemed to be walking down the middle of the fairway or onto a green for a reason: that's where her ball was. She was never in any of the 85 bunkers. She missed only one fairway. She missed only four greens, but never by more than a few feet. She had one birdie, a 15-foot putt from just off the green at No. 13. She had two bogeys.

As Sorenstam walked down the first fairway, Jason and Abby Carris of Enid, Oklahoma, stood with their twin 8-year-old redheaded daughters, Kimmy and Morgan. Kimmy's T-shirt read "Singh a Different Tune Vijay" and Morgan's read, "Thank You Annika for Opening Doors for the Future."

"We drove six hours to get down here," said the father, an aircraft mechanic. "We wanted our girls to see this, to be part of this."

With more little girls than usual among the thousands in her gallery, Sorenstam understood her connection to the women's movement.

"It's great to see the little girls," Sorenstam said. "I hope that they feel like when they grow up that they can play golf, but also follow their dream and follow their heart. That's what I'm doing. So it's wonderful to see every little one here. Either the little boys or girls, or the ladies or the men that are out there. That I'm living my dream and that's what it's all about."

Little boys were there, too. After Sorenstam's three-putt bogey at the No. 5, her 4-wood tee shot on No. 6 soared down the middle of the fairway. A 10-year-old boy perched on his dad's shoulders was heard to say, "Nice hit."

Moments later, an older woman behind the gallery rope was heard to say excitedly, "I've got to take up golf."

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