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THE SHORT STUFF

Hey, No Pressure, Annika

May 15, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

It may seem that the cards are getting stacked against Annika Sorenstam only a few days before she shows up to play the PGA Tour's Colonial (see Vijay Singh, etc.), but if she didn't already have a big enough burden, try this one on:

If Sorenstam plays poorly, she could damage all of women's sports.

That's the opinion of Dr. Emily Roper, a expert in the psychology of sports at Temple University.

"It's unfortunate that Annika's playing with men in a men's tournament is getting more attention than if she were playing in a women's tournament," Roper said. "Some may see it as a victory that she has been included, because, to many, playing against men is the highest possible level. This, obviously, is an incredibly sexist view.

"However, others would argue that her being asked to play with men may negate women's sport and particularly the other women she plays against."

Roper says how the media spin Sorenstam's performance will shape public opinion.

"If she doesn't make the cut, people will say, 'See, I told you she wasn't as good as a man.' It always comes down to comparisons. What she's doing is a wonderful marketing ploy for golf in general, and also women's golf, but if she misses the cut and gets a 'pat on the back,' that could be condescending."

Sorenstam's performance at Colonial may continue an unwanted perception, according to Roper.

"That women's sports are inferior," she said.

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One of the latest to weigh in on the Sorenstam issue is the first U.S. woman in space.

That would be Sally Ride, who rode the space shuttle into orbit. Maybe Ride doesn't know all that much about golf, but she knows a women's rights issue when she sees it. Before she delivered a speech to the Nevada Women's Fund in Reno, Ride was asked about Singh's comments that Sorenstam shouldn't bother to show up at Colonial.

"It's a bit surprising," said Ride, thus confirming her naivete. "Women's sports has come a long way in the 30 years since Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs."

Ride said Sorenstam is a worthy candidate to cross the line between the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour.

"Golf is a game where men and women can walk down the fairways together and if there is a woman who is good enough to play with the men, I don't really see what the issue is."

*

While Tiger Woods is busy this week in Germany at the Deutsche Bank SAP Open near Hamburg, Ernie Els is taking another week off, resting his right wrist. It's apparent that the injury, suffered a month ago, is giving him a lot more trouble than he expected.

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News item: TAG Heuer North America says its new sponsorship deal with Woods means that Tiger is helping in the design process and the company is working on a new golf watch.

Reaction: A Tiger golf watch? Wind it up and it gives Phil Mickelson the seconds.

*

The thrill clearly isn't gone for Mickelson, who is still loving his driver. Hank Kuehne hits it farther than anyone, averaging 312.6 yards on the holes that are measured and Mickelson is fifth at 304.8, but Mickelson is first in this statistic, courtesy of ShotLink: 51.6% of all his drives are more than 300 yards.

Mickelson ranks 180th in driving accuracy, or fairways hit. But he's also 12th in putting.

Meanwhile, Woods is 134th in driving accuracy and 48th in distance at 290.8 yards.

Only three years ago, that would have been good enough for third -- Davis Love III was third in 2000 with a average of 288.7 yards.

*

Did anybody else find it interesting that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews' symposium on slow play lasted two days?

*

When Hale Irwin won last week at Austin, Texas, it marked the ninth consecutive year he has had at least one victory. The only other Champions Tour player to do that was Miller Barber from 1981 to '89.

Irwin has played 22 consecutive tournaments under par and has been at par or better in 40 in a row, a streak that dates to September 2001.

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The St. Regis charity classic will be May 29 at Monarch Beach Golf Links at Dana Point. The event benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Orange County and Riverside County. Details: (949) 489-8000.

The Toshiba Senior Classic in Newport Beach raised $1 million for the Hoag Memorial Hospital.

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