Sorenstam Goes Way Low

Actress Jane Alexander attends the Roundabout Theatre Company's Spring Gala 2006 at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers April 3, 2006 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
GETTY IMAGES/Evan Agostini
On the 17th hole, the only sound was the cooing of a dove in a pine tree.

Annika Sorenstam tapped her putter on the ground, squatted to line up the shot, then paced off the 25 feet to the hole and walked to the other side of the green. Ready at last, she stood over the ball and broke the silence by running the putt though a swale within 8 inches to set up a birdie.

After a tap-in for par at the last hole, Sorenstam leaped into the arms of her caddie and kissed her husband, celebrating women's golf history with the first 59 ever.

The day after saying she goes for a birdie on every hole, Sorenstam almost did just that birdieing her first eight and 12 of her first 13 while shooting 13 under in the second round of the Standard Register Ping.

"I'm overwhelmed," she said. "I can't believe what I just did.

"It was an incredible day. I had a lot of thoughts in my head. I was trying to stay calm and hit good shots, trying to hit it straight every time."

The round included 13 birdies, no bogeys and 25 putts on the 6,459-yard Moon Valley Country Club course. She reached every green in regulation and her longest par putt was 3@1/2 feet.

"You can use all the words you want impressive, simple," playing partner Meg Mallon said. "She had two tap-ins and one putt from about 6 feet. The rest were 10 to 25 feet. She put on a putting display, especially on the front side. She hit the right shots. It was the kind of round everyone dreams of playing."

On a sunny, warm, windless day, the 30-year-old Swedish star broke every LPGA scoring record for one or two rounds.

Her 59 was two shots better than the 18-hole record of 61 she shared with Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak. Her 20-under 124 at the midpoint was three strokes better than the 17-under Webb shot at East Lansing, Mich., last year.

Pak's low round was on a par-71 course, while Webb and Sorenstam shot their 61s on par-72s.

Sorenstam started her round on the back nine and birdied the first eight holes second-best in LPGA history behind the nine in a row by Beth Daniel during a tournament in 1999 and finished her first nine in 28.

Then she birdied the next four before three straight pars and the history-making birdie on No. 8, her 17th hole. She closed with a 31 with a final putt from 6 inches.

"It was one of the longest putts I had all day - maybe not distance-wise, but it really felt like it," she said "I was trying to count quickly if I counted right, because I didn't want to jump up and down when I thought it was 59, when it really was 60."

Either score would have been a record, but Sorenstam wanted to equal the PGA record shared by Al Geiberger, David Duval and Chip Beck.

"It shows that we can play," Sorenstam said. "There's some good scoring out here, and I wish people could see that. They might say we're not playing at 7,000 yards, but you still have to get the ball in the hole. And I think the girls out here do a good job of that."

Tiger Woods has never had a 59 on tour, but he hit golf's magic number during a casual round with Mark O'Meara a week before Woods' record-setting victory at the 1997 Masters.

"It's an incredible feeling when you get on a roll like that," he said. "She's playing beautiful golf. She's a great player and she's fun to watch."

On her ninth hole, where she made her first par of the day, Sorenstam dropped an 8-iron shot from 158 yards to 30 feet, then left her first putt 3 1/2 feet short.

She missed only one fairway, straying about a yard into the rough on her 15th hole. She hit an 8-iron to 20 feet and two-putted for par.

As Sorenstam made her way down the stretch, the golf course emptied behind her and the applause from a Sunday-sized gallery grew louder as fans left their greenside spots.

On the 17th hole, a 476-yard par 5, Sorenstam drove down the middle and reached the green on the fly with a 7-wood.

Faced with a 25-foot eagle putt that would have to roll through a swale, she paced off the distance, fidgeted and stood over the ball. She took one step back then ran the putt within 8 inches for birdie as the crowd roared.

Sorenstam's approach shot on the last hole landed and dug in about 10 feet above the hole.

She two-putted, turned and leaped into the arms of caddie Terry McNamara the first of a series of celebrations.

Sorenstam, who earned $1.4 million and won five titles last year to Webb's $1.88 million and seven championships, has made no secret of her intention to overtake Webb as No. 1 on the LPGA Tour.

Sorenstam began a rigorous offseason training program, and it has paid off she was second in her first two events and won last week in Tucson, setting a tournament record there with a 23-under for 72 holes and moving to No. 1 on the money list.

"She's playing better than ever, because she's practicing more and she's in the best shape of her life," said her father, Tom Sorenstam. "She's motivated, not just by Karrie. By the rest of the tour. She wants to be the best."

©2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed