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Sorenstam shoots 71 at Colonial

FORT WORTH, Texas, May 22 (UPI) -- Facing the kind of pressure that is brought on by the fear of massive failure, Annika Sorenstam was a massive success Thursday.

The first female to play on the PGA Tour in 58 years, Sorenstam turned in a 1-over 71 on one of the nation's most respected courses and put herself in position to make the cut at the Bank of America Colonial.

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"My heart was beating, I was sick to my stomach, my hands were sweaty like they are when you are under pressure and stress," said Sorenstam, 32. "I am very proud of the way I played."

Sorenstam, criticized by a host of male players for accepting an invitation to play at Colonial, was under par for most of her round before finally slipping back with two late bogeys to finish in a tie for 73rd place. The top 70 players after Friday's second round will play on the weekend.

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The Swedish superstar was seven shots behind front-runner Rory Sabbatini, who finished late in the day with a 64. Rookie Patrick Sheehan and Mark Calcavecchia shared second place at 65 while Dan Forsman and Jesper Parnevik were at 66.

But she shot the same score as major championship winners Lee Janzen, Scott Simpson and Hal Sutton. She was one shot in front of Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington, Sergio Garcia and Mark Brooks, a former PGA champion who is as familiar with the Colonial course as anyone in the field since he is a member here.

Sorenstam finished two shots ahead of one-time British Open champ Tom Lehman. And she was four shots ahead of former Colonial winner Fulton Allem, who last week said that while they were reluctant to say so, most of the PGA Tour players were against Sorenstam playing.

"I'm a man and I'll do what men do," Allem said during last week's Byron Nelson Championship. "She is a woman and she should do what women do."

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Las Vegas oddsmakers set the "over-under" for Sorenstam's first-round score at 75.5. And as she stepped to the 10th tee to begin her first round Thursday, she found dozens of photographers zooming in on her along with about 2,000 fans awaiting the result of this unique golfing experiment.

No woman had played on the PGA Tour since Babe Didrickson Zaharias did so in Los Angeles in 1945. In that event, Zaharias shot an 84 in the opening round.

Sorenstam was the third and last player in her group to hit her tee shot and it was perfect. She then staged a mock swoon, as if to say she was glad that pressure-packed moment had come and gone.

As she headed out onto the course, Sorenstam was followed by an ever-growing number of people who had to trek through mud left behind by two days of heavy rain.

The throng, however, was not deterred.

"Go, Annika," came the shouts. "Great shot. Go get 'em, kid."

Many members of the gallery wore large green buttons that identified them as backers of Sorenstam's effort. One male fan wore a hat shaped like a chicken and on the chicken was written the name, "Vijay."

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Vijay Singh has been one of the most outspoken critics of Sorenstam's appearance in the tournament and he was originally entered here this week.

But after winning last week in Dallas at the Byron Nelson Championship, Singh withdrew from the Colonial.

The key to Sorenstam's round was her consistency, just as she said she hoped it would be. She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. Her lone birdie came at the par-3 13th, her fourth hole of the day, when she put her tee shot on the fringe and holed a 15-foot putt.

"I really didn't miss many shots at all," she said.

Her putting, however, prevented her from turning in what would have been a spectacular score. A series of missed five and six-foot putts cost her birdie chances along with the two bogeys she made at the fifth and ninth.

She did, however, save par at the second and sixth holes with tricky, five-foot efforts.

"Yeah, in a perfect world, I left a few putts out there," Sorenstam said. "But under these circumstances, I knew I was going to make some mistakes. And if these are the mistakes I make, I'll take them."

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Sorenstam was paired with two rookies for the first two rounds and neither could post a better score than she did. Dean Wilson also had a 71 and Aaron Barber shot a 72. As the three players sat in the scorer's tent, they exchanged high fives.

"I have to thank Aaron and Dean," Sorenstam said. "They were very supportive. We decided we were all in this together and they helped me get through the day."

Her effort drew praise from player throughout the field.

"You would have to say it is unbelievable," said Billy Andrade, who shot a 68 and played in the group in front of Sorenstam. "Tom be able to bottle up your nerves and have a performance from tee to green like that is, well, unbelievable."

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