Scoot over boys

Thursday, February 13, 2003

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Annika Sorenstam accepted an invitation Wednesday to play in the Colonial, which would make her the first woman in 58 years to compete on the men's pro tour.

"I think she just wants to find out how good she really is," Tiger Woods said.

No golfer has won more tournaments than Sorenstam over the last two seasons, Woods included. Last year alone, she shattered the LPGA Tour scoring record and won 13 times around the world, the most by anyone in nearly 40 years.

"All the attention and speculation is flattering, and I appreciate that the Bank of America Colonial Golf Tournament is giving me this opportunity to compete in a PGA Tour event," Sorenstam said in a statement released by the tournament sponsor.

"There were many invitations, but the golf course and schedule of the Colonial were ideal. For all the well-wishers who want to know why I would accept such a challenge the answer is simple: I am curious to see if I can compete in a PGA Tour event."

Sorenstam picked the perfect place to play against men, a course that does not require power off the tee. Colonial is 7,080 yards (par 70) and puts a premium on accuracy.

"I'm as curious as anybody to see how the best LPGA player of today, and possibly all time, will play against the men," Phil Mickelson said. "Colonial is a wonderful course for her to do it on."

Mickelson, a past champion at Colonial, predicted Sorenstam would "definitely" make the cut and probably finish 20th at the tournament, May 22-25.

How will he do?

"I hope 19th or better," Mickelson said.

Woods did not want to estimate how she might do, saying it depends on conditions and how the course is set up. He also predicted a media frenzy that Sorenstam has never seen, and said her participation could be risky.

"I think it's great she's playing, but ... it will only be great for women's golf if she plays well," Woods said. "If she puts up two high scores, it will be more detrimental than good."

The Colonial was made famous by Ben Hogan, who won five titles on his home course, and is steeped in tradition. No course has hosted a PGA Tour event longer than Colonial.

The last time a woman played a PGA Tour event, Babe Zaharias qualified for the 1945 Los Angeles Open and made the 36-hole cut before a 79 knocked her out of the final round.

Connecticut club pro Suzy Whaley has said she will play in the Greater Hartford Open in July. She qualified by winning a PGA of America sectional tournament, even though she was allowed to hit from a shorter set of tees.

At the Colonial, Sorenstam would play from the same tees as the men. The course hosted the 1991 U.S. Women's Open, but Sorenstam did not play.

The Colonial has one of the smallest fields on tour -- 114 to 120 players, while most events have 132 to as many as 156 players. The 32-year-old Sorenstam is getting one of the 12 sponsor exemptions for the event.

"Our course has provided a great platform to showcase the world's best players for more than 50 years, and we look forward to having a future Hall of Famer such as Annika compete at the Colonial," said Jim Thigpen, president of Colonial Country Club.

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