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THE COLONIAL

Lady's Day

Sorenstam says she's more than prepared to play, but PGA Tour players might already be trying to figure out a way to make this a one-shot deal

May 22, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

FORT WORTH — Welcome, Annika Sorenstam, to the Bank of America Colonial, part of the PGA Tour. Just don't make yourself too comfortable.

Sorenstam, the top female player in the world who has won 23 times the last two full years, becomes the first woman in 58 years to play a PGA Tour event when she tees it up this morning at Colonial Country Club.

While Sorenstam has said she doesn't plan on playing another one, chances are she may not have that opportunity.

David Toms, who won the 2001 PGA Championship and is a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board, said Wednesday that the rule-making group might consider a change in the tour's bylaws that would limit the competition to men. There is no distinction now.

"It really hasn't been talked about until recently," Toms said. "It's a process. So we don't just all of a sudden say, 'OK, we don't want any women to play our tour any more, let's change it.'

"So I think this week will give us a lot of feedback on what the future might hold."

The media attention and spotlight shining on Colonial because of Sorenstam's presence has tilted the tournament into a direction that has made the PGA Tour players uncomfortable, Toms said.

"Do you not think that the atmosphere this week is somewhat of a circus-type deal? There is a lot of stuff going on ... that we normally don't have to deal with.

"Would we ... have to field questions that we have had to field for the last three months? Would they want to have to do that all the time? I don't know. If it's the future of the PGA Tour and everybody thinks that that's OK, then we don't have to do anything.

"If we don't, if we think that this is not the direction we need to go and we need to take action, then we'll vote on it.

"This week, I think, is just a one-time thing."

Left unsaid is how poorly it might reflect on PGA Tour players to slam the door on a female player, or even consider it, before she hits even one ball in a men's tournament.

Meanwhile, Sorenstam quietly went about her business on a rainy Wednesday at Colonial and played in the pro-am with three amateur partners. Sorenstam's group completed 10 holes before it was rained out in the afternoon.

Even though she picked up her ball twice on the green, Sorenstam figures she was probably one over.

"I can't prepare any more," she said. "I've been waiting for this day a long time, I've been practicing a lot the last few months and I want the day to come. It's here. So whatever happens, happens."

For the second day in a row, Sorenstam hit a driver on the 246-yard par-three fourth hole and left it short of the green. She chipped in from 40 feet for a birdie. Sorenstam picked up her ball when she had a two-footer for bogey at the fifth and again when she had an eight-footer for par at the seventh. Sorenstam also missed a five-foot birdie putt at the sixth.

"I wasn't really keeping score," she said.

No such allowance will be made today. Nick Price is the defending champion in the $5-million tournament, with $900,000 going to the winner.

And winning tournaments is something Sorenstam knows a great deal about. She has 42 LPGA Tour victories, 13 of them last season. Colonial, where Ben Hogan won five times, is a par-70 layout that measures 7,080 yards. That makes it one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour, but it's about 600 yards longer than the typical course that Sorenstam plays on the LPGA Tour.

Because of the rain, Sorenstam said Colonial was playing up to 300 yards longer Wednesday. She didn't sound worried about the course or her game.

"The more I play this golf course, the more I'm around everything and getting used to the guys, and it's just going to make me feel more comfortable.

"Chipping and putting is obviously important because the course is getting longer and longer. And there might be holes where, if I can't reach [them], then obviously I've got to chip well. When the conditions are tough, you [have] to rely on [your] short game."

No one knows how tough the conditions will be on Sorenstam when she tees off at 6:58 a.m. PDT with PGA Tour rookies Aaron Barber and Dean Wilson, but she seemed comfortable with her task and what lay ahead.

"I'm excited," she said. "I just hope I can enjoy it."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Tournament

A look at the Bank of America Colonial, where Annika Sorenstam will become the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour:

* Heritage: The Colonial began in 1946 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Other than the Masters, it is the oldest PGA Tour event to have been played at the same course.

* Hogan's Alley: Ben Hogan won five times. No other player has won more than twice.

* Course: 7,080 yards, par 70. This week's LPGA Corning Classic plays at 6,062 yards. Par is 72.

* Field: 114 players.

* Defending champion: Nick Price.

* Purse: $5 million ($900,000 for the winner).

* Sorenstam's playing partners: Aaron Barber and Dean Wilson.

* Sorenstam's tee times: Today, 6:58 a.m. PDT (10th tee). Friday, 11:43 a.m. (1st tee).

* TV: Today on USA, 6:58 a.m. to about noon;

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