WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Annika Sorenstam has enjoyed plenty of great rounds at Trump International, a course where she won three times in a four-year span earlier this decade.
If she doesn’t rekindle that magic Friday, her storied career could come to an abrupt end.
Sorenstam shot a 2-over par 74 in Thursday’s opening round of the ADT Championship, good for a tie for 23rd in the 32-woman event, her final LPGA Tour appearance before “stepping away” from competitive golf. The field gets trimmed to 16 after Friday’s play, meaning Sorenstam has some work remaining just to reach the weekend.
“I was a little nervous. I feel like I’m playing good. I’m excited about the week,” the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer said. “But I’m telling you, nothing went my way today.”
Indeed, it was not a dominant round for the woman who once controlled her sport. She went barefoot into the water on the par-3 seventh to salvage a bogey and was 4 over through 10 holes, putting her into what seemed like a precarious spot.
But as she’s done so many times throughout her 72-win career, she rallied.
Sorenstam put together consecutive birdies on the par-4 14th and par-5 15th to stop the bogey bleeding and eventually finished six shots behind Katherine Hull (68).
“I think she wants to win a few more,” Hull said. “But I guess time will tell.”
Time will also tell if she’s figured out the ADT’s unique double-cut, erase-the-scores format, which began in 2006. Sorenstam hasn’t played past Friday in either of the first two years of the setup.
The scores are erased after Friday’s play, then get wiped clear again after Saturday’s round, after which only the top eight get invited back Sunday to play for the $1 million winner’s prize.
“You can’t really practice this format. It’s once a year,” said Sorenstam, who announced her plans to leave the game, start a family and tend to her business interests six months ago. “You just have to go out and play your best golf and see where you stand.”
That’s what Hull did.
One of the LPGA’s hottest players over the last three months, Hull finished one shot better than Ji-Yai Shin and In-Kyung Kim. Three others – Ji Young Oh, Eun-Hee Ji and Na Yeon Choi – were two strokes back.
Oddly, little attention was paid to the top of the leaderboard.
Most of the star power was off the first page.
World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, the defending champion, was 6 over during one rough eight-hole stretch and finished tied for 26th after a 75. Cristie Kerr, last year’s U.S. Women’s Open champion and a member at Trump International, was tied for 29th – last – after shooting a 78 and will play alone Friday morning. Inbee Park, the reigning U.S. Open winner, withdrew after starting a whopping 13 over through 14 holes.
“A few birdies will help,” Ochoa said. “I can do that.”
Paula Creamer, who could catch Ochoa for the money title if she wins this week, was tied with Karen Stupples and Christina Kim for seventh place, three shots behind Hull. Seven players, including hometown favorite Morgan Pressel, were four shots back after the opening round.
Pressel said she made “less than nothing” in her opening round, lamenting that she wasted plenty of chances.
“I think it’s probably set up the easiest since I’ve played here,” Pressel said.
Not everyone came away with the same assessment. Far from it, actually.
“I think this is probably the toughest the course has ever been set up for us,” said Karrie Webb, who had two birdies in her final three holes to salvage a 73.
Hull, who won the Canadian Open to start a run of six top-10 finishes in her last nine events, made two bogeys on Thursday and answered each one immediately with a birdie.
“Just tried to execute the game plan and have fun,” Hull said.
Hull said she won’t play any differently Friday even though it would take a huge collapse for her to not qualify for Saturday.
Sorenstam, set to make her last start in three weeks in the Dubai Ladies Masters, won’t change her approach either, even though she knows her spot in the weekend fields is hardly assured.
“You just have to be patient, just fairways and greens,” Sorenstam said. “It’s worked in the past for me.”