U.S. Women's Open Fans are Drawn to Annika

EDINA, Minn. -- Official rounds at the U.S. Women's Open don't start until Thursday, but Annika Sorenstam is already drawing some of the biggest crowds at Interlachen Country Club. A gallery of about 1,000 followed Sorenstam during Wednesday's practice round, and she appeared to have her game in prime shape for her 15th, and possibly last, Open. Sorenstam announced last month that she'll retire from competitive golf at the end of 2008.

Annika coordinated her practice rounds with her tee times, playing Tuesday afternoon as she will on Thursday and early Wednesday as she is scheduled to play on Friday. Following inside the ropes were two Minneapolis policemen taking a week's vacation to volunteer their services. Only Annika and Lorena Ochoa get two security officers this week. Natalie Gulbis, Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie are among the players assigned a single officer.

Also walking with Annika was Henri Reis, her longtime coach, giving pointers every now and then. Reis says he's pleased with the way Annika is playing right now and especially with how well she has come back from last year's neck injury with only a slight loss in distance.

Also in her gallery was Mike McGee, Sorenstam's fiance. When asked if Annika would play in future Women's Opens, McGee said she doesn't like to do anything halfway, so if she can't prepare to her standards, he didn't think she would want to play.

Annika was gracious to autograph seekers, signing at almost every hole. To a gentleman who asked her to sign his cap for the "old guy," she said, good-naturedly, "Catch me at the next hole."

Sorenstam looked very appealing in her magenta shorts and orange shirt with magenta stripes, complemented by an orange cap. Sorenstam spent time earlier this week signing apparel in the merchandise tent, and word is that much of the apparel in her line with Cutter & Buck was nearly sold out.

--Topsy Siderowf