ORLANDO, Florida – Annika Sorenstam has not played on the LPGA Tour in more than 12 years. Now she has two more days.
Sorenstam made three birdies after his turn at Lake Nona on Friday and posted a 1-under-71 on the Gainbridge LPGA. And even with the wrong decision the day before that resulted in an additional stroke, she still cut the number.
“I did what I could,” said Sorenstam. “The goal was to shoot under par and that’s what I did. That’s all I can do.”
She was still 12 shots off the lead when Lydia Ko scored a 3-under-69 and took a 1-shot lead over Nelly Korda (68). Ryann O’Toole had her second 68 in a row and was another shot behind.
Sorenstam, who made a one-off appearance with the LPGA Tour on her home course, finally dropped a few putts and ran out three birdies on her second nine. She finished 36 holes at 2 over 146 and was right on the cut line.
And then she had to wait for the other half to play in the afternoon and wonder if that decision would come back in the opening round to taste them the weekend.
Sorenstam took a triple bogey on the fifth hole of the opening round when her tee shot prevented her from going a fraction out of hand. But it was right under the gate of a wrought iron fence, the border. She asked for the gate to be opened, but was told that a provision in the rules did not allow it.
So she took a penalty, threw herself onto the fairway, and putted three times on her 75th round from 18 feet away.
It turned out to be one of the changes to the rules of golf modernization in 2019, the biggest overhaul ever. The gate is now treated as a moving obstacle – which means that it can be swung open as long as it is not locked (it was not).
The sentence could not be overturned as Sorenstam was playing from a different location.
Rules official Dan Maselli was devastated and apologized to Sorenstam after the second round. Sorenstam wasn’t bothered and said the rules were so new that it’s easy to go wrong in such a bizarre situation.
“He wanted to apologize. He said he was wrong. I could have opened the gate and played,” said Sorenstam. “But he said, ‘This is going to hurt me. It is eating me inside.’ I said, “Please, please don’t feel like this.” I appreciate that. He said, “I won’t make that mistake again.” I said, “Well, I won’t meet there again.”
“You know, these things happen. The rules have changed,” she said. “That’s how it goes.”
Even when she wasn’t playing – making the cut meant finding someone to take daughter Ava to volleyball – the 50-year-old Swede did what she wanted.
Sorenstam, who retired to raise a family after a three-win season in 2008, described this as an appearance, not a comeback. She wanted a little competition as she is considering playing the US Senior Women’s Open this summer, and she said she wouldn’t have played an LPGA Tour event if it wasn’t on her home course.
It wasn’t about contributing to their 72 career victories. But for someone who’s been out of competition for almost as long as her career on the LPGA Tour, she still has plenty of game to play.
“The goal was to be a little more aggressive. I was sometimes; not as much as I should have,” she said. “Overall, I’m very satisfied. A little chip-in there didn’t hurt. But yeah, I see it as a great lap. I won’t analyze it too much.”
Attention shifts to Ko, a former teenage prodigy and world number 1 who won her first LPGA tour event at 15. Ko has been almost three years since their last win despite their game on the up.
“No matter what happens over the weekend, I think it’s good to just keep putting myself in these positions,” said Ko. “I think you feel more comfortable with it and the more often you are there, the higher the chance that everything will happen for you in the end.”