Annika vs. the Men, redux in Tahoe
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
Annika to return to competition...briefly

Annika is coming out of retirement…well, kind of. 

Annika Sorenstam is working on her game again — or, in her words, she’s “grinding.” Sorenstam, who is being honored at The Memorial Tournament, announced on Wednesday that she will tee it up with the men again at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe, July 18-20. 

The World Golf Hall of Famer and winner of 89 tournaments worldwide, including 10 majors, last played competitively on the LPGA in the 2008 season-ending ADT Championship. Sorenstam is no stranger to competing against the men, of course, with her historic start at the PGA Tour’s 2003 Bank of America Colonial Open in Texas.

“Yes, I am going to play with the men again, in a different setting,” said Sorenstam on Wednesday morning in a press conference at Muirfield Village.  “But it’s going to be fun, with the American Century Championship out in Lake Tahoe.  This is our kind of second home.  We spend several months in Tahoe every year.  We’ve been going to the tournament.

“I’m very aware what the tournament is all about.  A few years ago I even played a few nine holes with some of the celebrities.  And the tournament called me said, Do you have an interest in playing again?  And I thought I’m not going to play competitive, but this is Stableford, and so it is competition with the men from the same tees.”

The tournament scoring is based on a modified Stableford format, with 10 points for a double eagle, 8 for a hole-in-one, 6 for eagle, 3 for birdie, 1 for par, 0 for bogey, and minus 2 for double-bogey or higher.

Sorenstam will be pitted against celebrities that include John Elway, Ray Allen, Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Jerry Rice, Jason Kidd and Charles Barkley.

“I really look forward to it,” said Sorenstam. “I’m still very competitive person.  I would say that doesn’t go away.  So I know that once I get inside the ropes, the adrenalin will be pumping a little extra.  And talk about extra, yes, I’m practicing a little bit again.

“So when I stepped away, I would shake hands with people and they would say, Well, this is not a golf hand, because I would have the soft hands.  Now getting some calluses again, getting back in the grind.

“It’s kind of fun.  I look forward to it.  It’s a competition, but I’m also having the approach I look forward to playing, having some good time.”

Sorenstam isn’t just playing for shits and giggles — she expects to win, like she always has when she tees it up in competition.

“I always do, yes.  I know (the celebrities) can play,” she said.  “They have a variety of, I would say skill level, as we know.  But, you know, I’m familiar with what the winning score has been in the past, so I kind of know what kind of score I’m looking for and what kind of points, I should say, I’m looking for.

“But that’s why I’m practicing.  I always target to win.  So that’s my focus.”

Meanwhile, as I mentioned Sorenstam is an honoree at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, The Memorial, this year, where she’ll be joining a group of the most esteemed names in golf.

“I remember getting the call and I was so honored and flattered because I’m familiar with the past honorees and what they’ve done for the game,” said Sorenstam.  “And through these 39 years of tournament, it just  sometimes it’s like how am I even mentioned in the same sentence as some of these, especially if you look at the women that have paved the way for myself and the other LPGA players, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez and Kathy Whitworth.

“It’s a very distinguished list and obviously on the men’s side as well.  So I am flattered.

“My kids took a photo of the little plaque yesterday, and it feels a little bit unreal to see me there and with them.  But I welcome it.  It gets me fired up to do more work off the course, which I’m doing now as far as giving back to the game.

“I admire Jack tremendously for what he has done, not just on the course but the things that he does with his charity work and of course as a family.  I respect him.  So, like I said, it’s a great honor to be here.”