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Unique Battle Lacks Quality

Golf: Woods and Sorenstam prevail over Duval and Webb, but the play leaves something to be desired.

July 31, 2001|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just to show that there is indeed something new under the sun--not to mention the lights--the world of reality television melted into professional golf in prime time and nobody fainted from heat exhaustion.

The Battle at Bighorn, the third in a series of made-for-television events featuring Tiger Woods, came off without a hitch Monday, with Woods and Annika Sorenstam defeating David Duval and Karrie Webb in 19 holes in a mixed team, alternate shot, match play format that produced some messed up golf at Palm Desert.

If the setup sounds complicated, the golf wasn't. It just wasn't very good.

That may make a difference when the overnight ratings come out.

Then again, it may not matter that the show consisted of four of the best players in the world spending 4 hours 29 minutes beating golf balls around the desert in gusty wind . . . and depositing them in bunkers, against trees, in the rough and caught up in bushes.

It was quite a show, all right, just not what they intended. Maybe they can salvage the thing and send the tape over to "America's Funniest Home Videos."

"With the conditions we had, with the wind blowing like that and with the format, once you get going bad, it's really hard to get it back," Woods said.

The crosswinds at Bighorn Golf Club probably were the worst thing, Woods said.

"I saw balls get slammed by the wind," he said.

No matter the conditions or the format, Battle III was a TV show that happened to be about golf and designed solely as a ratings magnet. Do you think this event would even have been held if it wasn't televised?

Woods-Sorenstam were 2-up after seven holes, but they had double bogeys at No. 10 and No. 11 to allow Duval-Webb to take the lead. It isn't often that you see the top male player and the top female player in the world resort to left-handed shots, but that's what Woods and Sorenstam had to do on consecutive holes because they didn't have any other choice.

A swirling wind didn't help much, but the four players weren't very sharp either. Through 14 holes, there were three birdies, two by Webb and one by Woods.

Woods-Sorenstam were two holes down with three to play, but Woods made a three-footer for par on the first extra hole, the 18th again, to win the match.

Maybe the best thing about Battle III is that no sheep got sick. That was a real fear last year because a blimp the color of fresh squeezed orange juice soared over the heads of 23 very spooked peninsular bighorn sheep. These weren't just your garden variety sheep, but endangered species sheep, so you can appreciate the scope of the problem.

This time, the blimp wasn't even there. The plane that took pictures for ABC flew at even higher altitudes than the blimp.

It didn't take long for ABC to set the tone for the show--two golf balls, the names of the players on them, collided and exploded. If that sounds familiar, it was no accident. It's sort of the same theme as the helmets that ram each other and blow up on Monday Night Football. Are you ready for some golf?

At tee time, just before 5 p.m., the temperature was 103 degrees. It was so hot, the players didn't need golf gloves, they needed oven mitts.

"It was hot and dusty, and we lost," Duval said. "The combination of those three things is not good."

He said he had a good time though, as did his three playing partners.

ABC measured the velocity of the players' swings at No. 3. Duval's swing was the fastest, at 126 mph. Coincidentally, that's also how quickly Sorenstam and Webb probably had to drive afterward so they could catch their flight to London to play the Women's British Open this week.

On the way, maybe Sorenstam will recall the 14th hole when she putted off the green some 20 yards. Duval ran in a short putt to win the hole and take a 1-up lead again with Webb.

Webb's three-foot birdie putt on the par-five 15th gave her team a 2-up lead with three holes left. Woods-Sorenstam took the 16th with par and Sorenstam could have evened the match at the 17th, but her eight-foot par putt stopped at the edge of the hole.

Sorenstam-Woods finally caught up when Sorenstam rolled in a 12-footer for a birdie on the 18th hole.

Woods said he would like to play the same event in the same format next year, but with one small change.

"Hopefully, we can play a little better next time," he said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BATTLE AT BIG HORN

Hole-by-hole results. Teams of Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam vs. David Duval and Karrie Webb. Alternate shot, mixed teams:

*--*

Hole Yards Par Score 1 429 4 ALL SQUARE 2 416 4 Woods/Sorenstam 1-up 3 531 5 ALL SQUARE 4 447 4 ALL SQUARE 5 367 4 Woods/Sorenstam 1-up 6 175 3 Woods/Sorenstam 1-up 7 519 5 Woods/Sorenstam 2-up 8 202 3 Woods/Sorenstam 2-up 9 449 4 Woods/Sorenstam 1-up 10 397 4 ALL SQUARE 11 434 4 Duval/Webb 1-up 12 550 5 ALL SQUARE 13 227 3 ALL SQUARE 14 351 4 Duval/Webb 1-up 15 528 5 Duval/Webb 2-up 16 153 3 Duval/Webb 1-up 17 443 4 Duval/Webb 1-up 18 355 4 ALL SQUARE SD 355 4 Woods/Sorenstam 1-up

*--*

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