Record TV ratings for golf. Unprecedented coverage in the newspapers. In less than a week, Annika Sorenstam became the hottest celebrity in her native Sweden.
Not since the days of former world heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson, tennis ace Bjorn Borg and Alpine skiing great Ingemar Stenmark has a Swedish athlete generated more headlines.
The first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years, Sorenstam didn't make the cut Friday at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. Her attempt ended in the second round when she had five bogeys in a span of eight holes and missed the chance to play in the final two rounds by four shots. She finished tied for 96th, ahead of 11 players.
"Terrific. Her performance made me so proud," said her father, Tom Sorenstam, who watched her round at his home in Bro, an hour's drive northwest of Stockholm, and not too far from the course where his daughter honed her game as a teenager.
"I know Annika has improved her game the last two years and I thought she would have a pretty good chance."
Prime Minister Goeran Persson, an avid sports fan, told The Associated Press: "She's a great female athlete ... with her great [golf] game and courage. I wish her all the best luck in the future."
Unfortunately, those birdies didn't come.
For a small Scandinavian country of 8.9 million people, who can play golf for only six months a year, Sweden has an amazing number of golf club members carrying official handicaps -- more than 400,000, for the highest per capita in the world.
Swedes prefer to play golf and not watch it on television.
"We had an average of 325,000 viewers watching during a telecast lasting more than four hours Thursday," said Carl Jansson, spokesman for TV3.
That's a higher figure than the Masters, broadcast by the Swedish public television network every year from Augusta, Georgia.