Stateline, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - Annika Sorenstam stole the show from some of sports and entertainment's biggest names Friday on the beach of south Lake Tahoe.
In her first competitive action since her retirement at the end of 2008, Sorenstam shot a 1-under 71 for a modified Stableford score of 21 Friday in the first round of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Heading into the second round, she's tied for fourth place with Stephen Curry and Joe Sakic.
Chad Pfeifer, an Iraq War veteran with a prosthetic right leg, made a strong rookie debut, taking the lead after the first round with a score of 24. Former NHL forward Jeremy Roenick and former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien are in second and third place, respectively, with Stableford scores of 23 and 22.
The tournament uses a modified Stableford format that awards 10 points for a double eagle, eight for a hole-in-one, six for an eagle, three for birdie, one for par, zero for bogey and minus-2 for double-bogey or worse.
"I just didn't really want it to end, because I was getting a little looser," said Sorenstam. "I was tight early on. I mean, I felt it, I don't know, I was holding back for really no reason. Maybe because I don't play and I'm rusty. But I had a lot of fun. Especially coming into 17, I've never played that type of environment, normally it's quiet."
Pfeifer as well enjoyed the party crowd on hole 17, feeding off the atypical golf gallery and birdieing the hole.
"A lot of them were just thanking me. So it was a lot of cheering, a lot of hearing my name out there, which is awkward, I guess. I'm not used to that," Pfeifer said. "But it was a lot of fun."
However, it was Sorenstam that had the biggest group following her from hole- to-hole. Her playing partners, John Elway and John Smoltz, got quite a bit of attention, but there were significantly more women in the crowd when the greatest woman to ever play the sport was swinging.
"It's very nice to get the support, I felt the support from the beginning when they asked me if I wanted to play," she said. "And I feel it from the guys, too. They welcome you here. And Charles Barkley has been tremendous. He said ten times, 'I'm glad you're here.'"
The Stableford format rewards aggressive play and low numbers from hole-to- hole. It took Sorenstam some time before she finally carded a birdie. She finished 1-over on the front nine and finally found her groove on the back, birdieing 15 and 18. She played from the same tees as the men and was undaunted as Elway and Smoltz bombed long drives right past her ball.
"For me, I know I can play this course," Sorenstam said. "I just got to play a little bit more relaxed tomorrow and find a feel around the greens. It's hard to feel when you're really tight. So maybe one round will loosen me up, get me more comfortable."
Pfeifer made plenty of birdies. A newcomer in the event, but an instant fan favorite, he holds the lead going into the second round.
"There was a lot of nerves, that's for sure," he said. "Just tried to play my own game and just tried to play steady golf. I know doubles are no good, obviously, but as long as I could eliminate a lot of bogeys and just, if I can play par golf, I'll make some birdies and hopefully don't give any back with doubles."