Annika Sorenstam wanted to play with the men so she could raise the level of her game. She may need to, if her start to the LPGA season is any indication.
Sorenstam opened her year with a solid five-under-par 67 Thursday, only to find herself trailing rivals Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb after the first round of the Safeway Ping tournament.
Pak shot a seven-under 65 and Webb bogeyed her final hole for a 66, both serving early notice to Sorenstam that she might have trouble winning 11 times on the LPGA Tour again this year.
"They're all chasing who's on top," Sorenstam said.
Pak acknowledged as much, after an opening round in which she made eight birdies against a lone bogey under perfect scoring conditions at the Moon Valley Country Club.
"I am getting better every year, but I don't think I'm as good as her," Pak said. "So probably at least a couple more years, I'm going to have the same season as her."
Webb posted the first low number, despite a miscue on the final hole when she drove it about 260 yards down the middle, only to fly a nine-iron over the green.
After missing an eight-footer for par, Webb had to settle for being a shot out of the lead.
"Obviously I'm a little disappointed to bogey the last, but it was probably the two best swings of the day, so I can't complain about it," Webb said.
There was little to complain about for the LPGA, which got three of its most notable players on top of the leaderboard in only the second tournament of the season.
Sorenstam didn't play last week in Phoenix, where Wendy Doolan won by shooting 21 under. But Doolan's score last week and the play of Webb and Pak in the first round caught Sorenstam's attention.
"Today's only Thursday, so I was just trying to focus on my own game," Sorenstam said. "But I did peek at the leaderboard once.
"I was a little nervous off the first tee. I've had a long break, and I didn't know what to expect."