CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Annika Sorenstam, who it says here is the greatest LPGA player of all time, wants to play in a PGA Tour event.
She needs to take her sideshow somewhere else unless she decides to go about it the right way.
Sorenstam's desire to compete against the best players in the world is understandable. Admirable, even, when examined with blinders on. She's lapping the competition on her tour and naturally, a la Roy Jones Jr. proverbially eyeing the heavyweight division, her curiosity has been peaked by the thought of going head-to-head with Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.
Hold on to your egalitarianism, folks. There are more than a few things morbidly wrong with this "battle of the sexes 2003" concept.
First, Annika said she would test the PGA Tour waters provided she received a sponsor's exemption and the tournament was held on a golf course that suited her.
Um, anything else we boys can serve up on a platter for you? Perhaps a lava rock massage or a facial? Don't fall for it fellas. If Annika wants to play on your Tour, she needs to earn it. She needs to play her way into an event, and she needs to do it from the back tees. Go take a straw poll on this issue with the guys who risked their sanity and reputations at Q-school three weeks ago and see if you don't come away with a 4-iron wrapped around your neck just for asking.
Second, a tournament should loose all its sponsor exemptions if it grants them just for the sake of creating a media stir.
Sure, the PGA Tour is too buttoned up for its own good. But that is because the players like Woods, Els, and Mickelson need to cut loose every once in a while, not because of a lack of a bearded lady sideshow (or in this case, a cute lady with mad game). Sponsor exemptions should be reserved for up-and-coming young players (Woods in 1996, Charles Howell III in 2001) or for established veterans who have earned the right to play over the years but may have stumbled upon a few bad months or even years (Tom Lehman, Greg Norman, etc.).
Second and a half, what comes around goes around with these glad-handed tournament invitations.
The Kemper Open offered former Redskins QB and celebrity tour stud Mark Rypien a sponsor's exemption in 1992. Rypien shot 80-91 and basically looked like an idiot. From time to time, undeserving PGA teaching professionals are granted sponsor's exemptions because of their connections with the big wig CEO's underwriting the event. The most embarrassing example being that of Mason Wolf who received a free ticket into the USF&G Classic in New Orleans in 1990 and subsequently fired a 90-93 to log the highest 36-hole total on the PGA Tour in 30 years.
Third, and finally, what is the point, really? Sorenstam is not going to win. It is not even a remote possibility. Sure, she is long off the tee for the LPGA Tour, averaging somewhere around 260 yards per poke. This would be good enough for third from last place on the PGA Tour, just ahead of Brad Faxon and Loren Roberts. And that is assuming she could maintain that average from the championship tees where more hazards come into play.
Some have made the case that Sorenstam could make a respectable showing on a "shotmakers" course where her short game skills and accuracy could keep her in the hunt. This is hogwash. What good are short game skills and accuracy when 21-year-old Aaron Baddeley is taking 7-iron into a green and Sorenstam has to pull 3-iron just to get it close?
Look, the point here is not designed to be a chauvinist attack on Annika's aspirations. She is an incredible player, a classy person, and could whip 99.9 percent of male golfers two ways to Tuesday. But Sorenstam needs to earn her way into a PGA Tour event just like Babe Zaharias did at the Los Angeles Open in 1945 and just like Michelle Wie attempted to do at the Sony Open two weeks ago.
Just as importantly, the PGA and LPGA Tours need to be sure they support Sorenstam's quest for the right reasons. Spin control on the Augusta National debacle and generation of better television ratings are not legitimate motives.
Oh, and remember, what's good for the goose should also good for the gander. If Woods, Els, Mickelson or even Roberts should decide that they want to move over and clean up on the LPGA Tour, maybe this cross pollination of tours wouldn't seem like such a good idea.
January 27, 2003
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!