Originally created 11/30/03

Sorenstam sinks eagle at Skins Game



LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Annika Sorenstam played against the men again - and beat them with one of the most spectacular shots in the history of the Skins Game.

Sorenstam, the first woman to compete in the 21 years since the event began, holed a 39-yard bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5, 524-yard ninth hole Saturday to earn $175,000.

"I'm pretty much in shock, I must say," she said.

Another $700,000 will be at stake in the final nine holes on Sunday.

On Saturday, she won more than her three male competitors did combined. Phil Mickelson earned $100,000 with a pair of $50,000 skins. Fred Couples sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the first hole for $25,000. Defending champion Mark O'Meara had no skins.

Sorenstam became the first woman to compete in a PGA event in 58 years at The Colonial in May. She had a solid two rounds but missed the cut.

Her invitation to compete in the $1 million Skins Game drew far less attention, but she knew she faced an uphill battle against the longer-hitting men.

She played well but had no skins through the first eight holes Saturday, then came the shot she called the best of her remarkable career.

"I've hit some great shots at major championships to win them," she said, "but with all the people watching, against these guys a tough shot like that, I think it's the best shot under the circumstances."

There were no skins on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes, building the amount at stake to $175,000 on the ninth.

"This format lends itself to having one incredible shot overshadow the day," Mickelson said. "That's part of the excitement of the format. And to have it happen on the last hole, in front of everybody with the most money on the line, I thought was pretty cool. It would have been even more cool if it were me."

None of the players made the green in two, and Sorenstam was in the worst shape of all, in the sand trap on the far side of the green at the Trilogy Golf Club, which opened in February.

"For me, it's the hardest shot in golf," she said. "I don't mind hitting drivers. I don't mind hitting out of the rough, but long bunk shots, I try to stay out of them just because I find them so hard."

Her ball was resting on an uphill slope and she hit it cleanly, hardly disturbing the sand. The ball skipped a few times on the green, then rolled directly into the hole.

"It was absolutely perfect," Couples said. "What an eagle! I mean, you have to be in the bunker to have that shot to understand how hard it is. And to hole it, you could be down there until tomorrow's 8 o'clock tee time and not do it."

Sorenstam threw her arms up in triumph, then hugged her caddie Terry McNamara. She took the ball from cup, kissed it and flung it into the gallery.

"Under the circumstances, to just get it within 10 feet I would have been really happy," Sorenstam said. "This just seems like it's my year. It's just amazing. Things are going my way, so I'm just enjoying it and taking it while I've got it."

It was the eighth eagle in the tournament's history, and her $175,000 was the most any golfer has earned in the first day of the made-for-TV event.

After congratulating Sorenstam, Couples, O'Meara and Mickelson took their shots from the rough, and none came close.

Mickelson robbed her of a skin on the par-4, 417-yard fourth by sinking a 22-foot birdie putt. Sorenstam also made hers from 15 feet to keep Mickelson from winning that hole. But he birdied the par-4, 448-yard fifth from 25 feet to win his second $50,000 skin of the event. O'Meara could have halved the hole but missed a five-footer.

Even though the men had more power off the tee, Sorenstam was the only player to reach the green in two shots on the par-5, 533-yard seventh hole. But no one got a skin there.