ORLANDO, Florida — Annika Sorenstam put together her first bogey-free round in more than a decade to open the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, where she leads the celebrity division. Caddy Mike McGee quickly pointed this out to his wife after her round.
“Of course I’m very pleased,” said Sorenstam, who amassed 39 points in the Stableford format after shooting 3-under 69 at her home course, Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.
Sorenstam, who lost to World Series champion Derek Lowe in a playoff here last year, leads Mardy Fish by two points. When the 72-time LPGA winner was asked if she occasionally watches the LPGA side of the board, where Brooke Henderson leads after a 5-under 67, Sorenstam replied, “Of course.”
“I’m competitive, but it’s not like I look there and say, I wish I was there,” she said. “I am very happy where I am.
“But the competitive part isn’t going away.”
Brooke Henderson reacts with caddy Brittany Henderson after her putt on the 18th green during the first round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 19, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
After competing in the PNC Championship with son Will last month, the family headed to Tahoe for several weeks of skiing at their second home. The first part of the year was filled with foundation work, with the Hilton Grand Vacations Annika Invitational wrapping up just a few days ago.
Ashleen Kaur made a 40-foot downhill putt for eagle to win by one, and her win earned her a spot to compete in this week’s field.
“I saw her this morning and her dad is like a joy,” Sorenstam said beaming. “That’s what we want to provide: great experiences they won’t forget. Very happy for her.”
Sorenstam played with TOC rookie Gemma Dryburgh on Thursday. The Scot told Sorenstam that she entered her youth tournament when she was seventeen.
So it was pretty crazy to look back and play with her in an event now, Dryburgh said. “Very cool. I asked her a few questions. Hopefully I didn’t bombard her too much, but wanted to soak up as much information as possible.
While Sorenstam hasn’t gotten as much prep time as she would have liked to compete in this event, she does have new Callaway clubs in her pocket.
After bagging a new Paradym driver and finding an extra 8 yards, Sorenstam asked Callaway for more new clubs. A recent adjustment to her new Paradym irons, and she’s whizzing along.
“I’m looking for things that will give me an extra mile per hour of clubhead speed, an extra yard,” she said, “whatever I can get. And now they’re doing it for me.”
Sorenstam said she starts the tee the ball higher and launches the ball higher with her driver.
“If I can get it up in the air,” she said, “it actually stays there a little longer, which is what I need.” Then I feel like it’s almost 10 meters. That’s the goal.”
While she feels good after her opening round at home, Sorenstam isn’t sure what the rest of her game schedule will look like this year. She leaves for Portugal in two weeks to play in a senior event.
“Obviously I know LPGA is not where I belong anymore,” said the 2021 US Senior Women’s Open champion. “So just kind of see how it goes and how I feel.”
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek