Ladies and gentlemen, Annika has left the building.
Yes, Annika Sorenstam is gone, and so are all the green “Go Annika” buttons, which sold out at the pro shop and the merchandise tent, much to the dismay of Amanda Young, a 12-year-old fan who was left with neither hero nor button Saturday morning at Colonial Country Club.
“Bummer,” Amanda said.
Indeed. The scene for Saturday’s third round of the Bank of America Colonial didn’t come close to matching the wall-to-wall scrum of fans, their numbers estimated at 60,000, who showed up Friday to see if Sorenstam could make the cut.
She didn’t, falling four shots short of her goal after a 74 that wasn’t good enough for her to play the weekend, but clearly good enough to earn praise.
Nick Price shot a 65 Saturday and said he had a lot of respect for Sorenstam. This is the same Price who said early in the week that he was fed up with being asked about her.
It was too much of a distraction, he said.
“Tuesday or Wednesday, every second question I was asked had a barb on it, and that’s not much fun,” Price said. “For 2 1/2 months I’ve been putting up with that. So maybe there’s a little bit of relief since that’s all gone away.”
Then Price and everybody else probably can rest up a bit, because Saturday at Colonial didn’t come close to matching the atmosphere from the first two rounds, mainly, because something was missing.
Sorenstam herself had described the atmosphere around here as “electrical,” so what happened Saturday was the professional golf equivalent of a power outage.
Meanwhile, outside the gates, the auxiliary golf business was brisk, with parking spaces available in front yards for $30 (those same spaces were going for $50 Friday) and buses backed up on the street, unloading rows of passengers reeking of coconut, soaked in tanning lotion.
But inside the white picket fence that surrounds Colonial, the scene was nothing like it had been before, only a day earlier. Joe Durant noticed the difference right away. The place seemed, well, half-empty.
Durant didn’t have much to compare it to, then came up with one. Maybe something like the circus leaving town, he said.
“It’s so different,” he said. “It’s like, uh, maybe when Tiger misses the cut in a tournament.... Oh, yeah, he doesn’t do that, does he?”
Still, it’s a point well taken. Kirk Triplett agreed. With Sorenstam gone, the rest of the tournament is what?
“Anticlimactic,” he said. “It’s real quiet out here. It’s sort of a letdown.”
Added Dallas native Justin Leonard: “It was nice and quiet. There was no traffic getting in here. This is a little more what I’m used to.”
A spokesman for the Tarrant County sheriff’s department estimated that 50% fewer fans showed up Saturday. Among the media, the numbers showed an even greater decrease. A tournament-record 652 media credentials were issued by Thursday and more than 400 filled the media center.
By Saturday afternoon, the place looked like a ghost town, with only about a third of the chairs filled.
The PGA Tour passed out 128 stickers Thursday for reporters to follow Sorenstam’s group and walk inside the ropes. By Saturday afternoon, 11 had been passed out.
“It’s sort of what we expected,” tournament media official Glenn Stone said.
Many found the roomier conditions to their liking. One guy in overalls carrying the portable scoreboard in Phil Mickelson’s group walked to his position and conducted a brief conversation with another scoreboard carrier.
“Dude, were you here yesterday?”
“So many people, unbelievable.”
“It’s better like this, dude.”
At least the lines were shorter at the portable toilets and the concession stands, not to mention all around the golf course, where the galleries were smaller, quieter ... and not seeing Sorenstam.
“It was great everybody had the chance,” Triplett said. “For us, and probably for everybody else, it was nice to have something different, something you don’t have too often. She’s not here now, but I don’t think too many are going to forget what it was like when she was here.”