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Sorenstam Should Maintain the Right Course

February 06, 2003|THOMAS BONK

There is no doubt at this very moment that Annika Sorenstam is the best female golfer from Sweden, who went to college in Arizona, who lives in Florida, who skis in Tahoe, who taps away on the computer, who fancies herself a chef.

And look what she's cooking up now. Sorenstam says she may play a PGA Tour event, possibly at Tucson at the end of February, two weeks before the LPGA season begins with a tournament at Tucson.

Imagine that. Annika could spend three weeks in Tucson. Or maybe it'll only be a couple of days, because she's going to have some time on her hands after she misses the cut.

Tell me this idea of playing a PGA Tour event isn't hers. Tell me that she's not serious, that she's really going to stick to what she does best, which is win just about every event she enters as long as it isn't the one with the male pros at Tucson. Or anywhere else.

It's difficult to figure out the possible upside to this whole scenario.

That she can win? That she can finish in the top 30? That she makes the cut? That she won't hit the ball 30 yards shorter than anyone else?

Maybe Annika wants to give the LPGA greater exposure. That's what that Battle at Bighorn was about a couple of years ago when she and Karrie Webb had Tiger Woods and David Duval as partners on prime-time television.

And what kind of exposure do you get from a possible hammering? Yeah, that's a good look, all right.

No, if Sorenstam's intentions are to draw more fans to the LPGA, all she needs to do is win some more tournaments, rack up some more majors, fire another 59 ... and then fly off in a puff of smoke at the 18th green and materialize with a flash on the putting green at the next week's tournament.

Now if she can pull that off, imagine the attention Sorenstam would get.

It's not out of the question that Sorenstam wants to play with the male pros simply because she wants to.

If you're as good as she is, that's understandable. But at the same time, that's what the off-season tournaments are for.

All right, let's play along with Sorenstam and follow her possible trains of thought. She's dominating her playing field and this looks like as good a time as any to measure her game against the men.

The top 64 players in the men's game will be at La Costa for the World Match Play event the same week the PGA Tour runs the Tucson tournament, so that could in theory help Sorenstam's chances.

Or maybe not. The cut last year at Tucson was at one under par and included Rich Beem, who would win the PGA Championship six months later, beating Tiger Woods.

To a man, the male pros are publicly supportive of Sorenstam's stated position that she might like to try a PGA Tour event. In private, they're a little different. They question whether it's an ego thing with Sorenstam, trying to beat Suzy Whaley to the punch.

What steams them, though, is the fact that she would take another player's place in the field and cost that player some money, all to satisfy a whim.

You might think it's a perfectly harmless stunt, a charming diversion and acutely entertaining. There is a whole locker room full of male pros who aren't so sure of that, so is the potential for antagonism worth the risk?

Sorenstam might eventually realize it's not a good idea. She might arrive at the opinion that, sure, it's fun to talk about and merely the flood of speculation about her playing with the men has put the LPGA in a brighter light.

Meanwhile, the downsides pile up. At the very least, Sorenstam would be getting away from her core business. She needs to pay attention to this. Does IBM make bean dip? Is General Motors in the pharmaceutical business? Do you see John Daly promoting vegetables?

Sorenstam's core business is about mopping up on the LPGA Tour.

If she had a couple of bad rounds, how much would it damage her confidence? What does playing, say, Tucson, have to do with preparing to play the Kraft Championship at Mission Hills? Or the U.S. Open?

This thing has been out in the open so long, there aren't going to be too many surprised if Sorenstam dives in, steps up to the back tees and wails away at a PGA Tour event.

She'll never be just one of the guys.

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