Sorenstam survives scrutiny to stay in contention

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The Independent Online

Annika Sorenstam defied her critics here yesterday in the Colonial PGA tournament with a creditable 71, one over par, in her first round on the men's Tour.

Sorenstam, 32, carded one birdie and two bogeys, the second on her final hole, which gives the women's world No 1 every chance of making the half-way cut today. Asked if the day had been all she expected, Sorenstam said: "Much more. I've been nervous all day, I thought it would go after a few holes but I was tense all day.

She added: "I'm very happy with the way I played, the guys I played with were so nice, I don't know if I would have made it without them.

"Everything was going through my mind, I was very nervous on the first tee. I've been hitting the ball well but I didn't know if I was going to do it today, the course was playing so long. I'm just glad the day is over, I enjoyed it but it's a relief now."

The course was playing longer than usual after a lot of rain, adding to her difficulties.

"I could be more aggressive but I was hitting longer clubs in and the pin placements were the toughest I've seen," she said. "I've learned so much, that's the reason why I'm here. I'm absorbing so many things, I'm so thankful to be here."

Teeing off on the 10th under intense scrutiny, Sorenstam completed the front nine in one under thanks to a 15-foot birdie putt on the 176-yard par-three 13th. She dropped back to level with a bogey-five on the fifth after three-putting, and bogeyed the last in a disappointing finish. However, she recorded the same score as one of her playing partners Dean Wilson, who spent a couple of dollars on a "Go Annika" badge earlier this week, and one better than the third partner, Aaron Barber.

Sorenstam, the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years, had got off to a light-hearted start when she feigned a collapse after finding the fairway with her first tee-shot. Despite winning 43 times on the LPGA Tour, she has drawn harsh criticism from some PGA Tour members who said she should have had to qualify.

* On the Ladies European Tour today, the Portuguese Open near Lisbon will feature two 13-year-old British debutantes. Henrietta Brockway and Florentyna Parker are members of Nick Faldo's Junior Series and the only two female players in "Team Faldo", a selection of six players hand-picked by the six-times major champion.