Annika Sorenstam expected that she’d have to account for her finish to son Will once he got home from school. The golf-loving 10-year-old was bummed that he had to miss the opening round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. Will asked for a link to the scoring so that he could sneak a peek during class.
The good news, Will: Mom birdied the first two holes and is leading the celebrity division.
“I was happy I got off to a good start because I know he was watching,” said Sorenstam “But I’m sure when I get home he’s going to say, ‘What happened on No. 3, Mommy? And then what happened on 18?’ ”
Sorenstam, the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion, amassed 33 points in the modified stableford scoring format at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, where she lives just off the 16th tee. Four bogeys over the last six holes, however, left a sour taste in her mouth.
“I mean, first of all, it’s playing longer,” said Sorenstam of the conditions. “I don’t play these tees on my own. I go to the forward tees a little bit.
“But it’s in amazing shape. So nice. Greens are rolling beautifully, obviously faster than normal. The rough is thicker. Seems like the fairways are a little more narrow, too.”
That suits the steady Swede, who retired from the LPGA with 72 titles and 10 majors, and has husband Mike McGee on the bag this week. Four players trail her by one point: Mark Mulder, Chad Pfeifer, Derek Lowe and Jeremy Roenick.
Sorenstam played alongside Jessica Korda, last year’s TOC winner, and John Smoltz in the opening round. It was the first time Korda had played a round of golf with the greatest player of the modern era.
“She still hits it really far,” said Korda. “She bombs it. I was pretty surprised because I think I read an article saying she’s hitting it so much shorter, so I was really expecting a lot shorter than what she was hitting.
“She was hitting some great shots. I mean, her putting, like she made some bombs today. Started birdie-birdie and I was like, ‘Here we go. I’m like parring my first seven or eight holes.’
“So it was fun to have kind of a front row to something that I didn’t get to see personally.”
While Sorenstam isn’t as rusty as this time last year, she didn’t exactly come into the week feeling especially prepared as she had a bulging disc in November and then tested positive for COVID-19 after Christmas.
“I got a little bit antsy out there,” said Sorenstam. “I felt better than it really should have been.
“But, you know, new day tomorrow, and hopefully some better shots and some birdies.”
Original posted at golfweek.usatoday.com