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Recent Columns by Sally Jenkins
Post's Golf Coverage
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Annika Sorenstam
With Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Columnist

Friday, May 23, 2003; 11 a.m. ET

Annika Sorenstam, the first woman to play on the PGA Tour in 58 years, shot 1-over par after suffering two bogeys in her last five holes.

Post columnist Sally Jenkins was online to discuss Annika Sorenstam, the media frenzy surrounding her and the latest in sports news.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.



Sally Jenkins: It was probably one of the most exciting days in golf history yesterday. I will be interested in seeing if she can do it again today. If Sorenstam can shoot the same today she has a pretty good chance of making the cut.


Washington, D.C.: Sally:

Simple question: What next? What should happen next for Sorenstam and women's golf in general, especially if the best player on the women's tour plays, by her own admission, as well as she can expect and fails to make the cut in an event with a rather mediocre field? Is it better to make the most of this to boost the LPGA Tour or to continue efforts to play on the PGA Tour?

Sally Jenkins: The thing that happens next is a little girl names Michelle Wie who is not even in high school yet and can bust it 290 off the tee. She has already said she wants to play on the PGA tour. I think that there is a distinct possibility that someday the LPGA will be a minor league and that the PGA tour will become the preeminent golf tour for both genders, but we won't know that for at least a decade or so. What Annika did yesterday is show the world the possibilities and one thing that happened is that she showed the world that the lower third of the field in this particular tournament played a brand of golf that an accomplished female player can certainly compete against.


Frederick, Md.: Hi Sally. Regarding Nick Price's comment that this "Reeks of publicity," isn't that what the sponsor's exemptions are for -- generating publicity and interest (which of course generates revenue)? They are often wasted on local pros or celebrities. At least this one was used on somebody who can play the game at a level most men play only in our dreams. In the absence of Tiger, I'd have no interest in watching this tournament. I certainly have no interest in watching the bitter Mr. Price defend his title. But with Sorenstam's presence, I can't stop watching.

While I never thought she would make the cut, I am pleased to see how well she is playing and I'm sure this will lead to many invites down the road. Get used to it Nick and V.J.

Sally Jenkins: What is wrong with publicity? It happens to be the reason why Nick Price earns the living that he does. Without ticket buyers, television and corporate sponsors he would be playing for his own money, not other peoples. This is quite possibly the single most interesting thing that has happened to golf since Tiger Woods, and on e of the more interesting things about it is that Sorenstam, a 4-time major champion, has made as much in prize money this year as a guy on the PGA Tour who ranks about 75th. In other words publicity is why PGA players are overpaid and the more obscure female player who happens to be a great champion has been relatively underpaid for her achievements up to this point. I hope Annika Sorenstam makes millions off this publicity.


Boston, Mass: Sally -- Annika's shot "didn't have a bit of girl in it?" It's a convenient turn of phrase, but pretty insulting. The whole point is that Annika, who is female, can play golf well. Not that she can play golf in spite of being female or that she can play without "playing like a girl." She IS playing like a girl. This is how some girls can play.

Sally Jenkins: Annika Sorenstam played golf like a woman not a girl. A girl is a child, a woman is a grownup. I don't know anybody in athletics who things that playing like a girl is such a wonderful thing. Girls wear party dresses and bows in their hair, they are fun to dress up and they like to have sleepovers - and when it is time to choose up sides for a team they pick their best friend instead of the best player. We don't need girls in sports, we need athletes.


Alexandria, Va.: Does this mean that Tiger Woods can now play in the LPGA? Wouldn't that be fair?

Sally Jenkins: What would be fair is for a lower tiered male golfer seeking to move up a level to apply for a sponsor's exemption into an LPGA event. The LPGA is undeniably the lesser tour so a PGA tour player would be hardly inclined to move down one level. Sorenstam did what any aspiring collegiate player or rising young aspiring PGA tour player does: she accepted an invitation to move up one level.


Fairfax, Va.: Golf -- is this REALLY a sport? Come on, the players don't even carry their own bags!

Anyway, I'm glad to see Annika doing well. I can't imagine the pressure she's under.

P.S. How's your Brother taking this?

Sally Jenkins: I peeled a $20 off him yesterday and I plan to peel more before this is over. I bet she would shoot even par, he bet she would shoot 78 partly to aggravate me. He is actually really rooting for her and announced this morning at the breakfast table that he hope she finishes in the top ten so she gets and exemption and can do this again.

As far as whether or not golf is a sport, you have to see the arms on golfers, the legs, and the hand eye coordination on a great player up close and you don't question it again.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Sally, do you think Sports Illustrated will put Annika on its cover?

Sally Jenkins: If they are smart.


Olney, Md.: What do you think was behind Sorenstam's unusual tentativeness in her short game? At first I thought maybe she was just making sure she made par, but there were at least three that I was sure she would have made in one putt. Was she worried about the greens being faster than on the women's tour? I've heard that, but I would think she could adjust quickly. Was it strategy, to play it safe? I know we may never know, but what's your guess?

Sally Jenkins:
I think that what happened is that the green speed was a little inconsistent because of the rain. Also, her putting does happen to be the most vulnerable point in her game. She is not a great putter, she is a streak putter and she herself admits that if she gets it in her head that her putter isn't working very well she gets very tentative, but if she gets some confidence today and plays as well from tee to green as she did yesterday she could score much better. The consensus among people who watch her yesterday is that she played to a 68 but shot 71.


Arlington, Va.: A lot of people have an issue with the fact that Annika didn't have to qualify to play. Do all other players with a sponsors exemption qualify?

Sally Jenkins: No. Of course not. Tiger Woods benefited from a half dozen sponsors exemptions as an amateur. Sponsor's exemptions were meant precisely for this reason: to give a great young golfer a shortcut to the most elite level.


Somewhere, USA: Sally - what are your dad's thoughts about this?

Sally Jenkins: My father thinks it is one of the most exiting things he has ever seen in golf. Also, he was born and raised in Fort Worth and lived three blocks from Colonial where he is an honorary member. He says it is the biggest thing to happen to this town since Pete the Python escaped from the city zoo. He was a great friend of Ben Hogans and he thinks that Hogan would have thought this was fabulous and he believes that Sorenstam played the course yesterday exactly as Hogan himself would have played it. In fact my father thinks that Sorenstam played the best golf of the day, though her score didn't reflect it.


Washington, D.C.: PGA golfer Lee Elder broke the color barrier at the Masters. It's worth considering how his approach differed from Sorenstam's. Elder made it known he would refuse a special invitation to play at the Masters. Then he won the Monsanto Open to qualify for Augusta directly without a special break. Why didn't Sorenstam try to get into a PGA tourney via qualifying rounds instead of taking the special break? It was good enough for Lee Elder, it should be good enough for her.

Sally Jenkins: Annika Sorenstam has won four major championships on the LPGA and last season she won 13 tournaments worldwide, almost half of the events that she entered. Also, she finished in the top seven of 31 events around the world. She figured she had earned the invitation to play at the Colonial.


Sally Jenkins: Exactly how much more qualifying would you like her to do?


Bedford, Tex.: Do you think Vijay Singh's career will suffer because of the remarks he made about Annika?

Sally Jenkins: Vijay Singh's career on the golf course wont suffer but his career as a person will suffer and in fact has suffered already from ill considered comments and general loudish behavior over the years. He was known as a singularly unpleasant person long before he ever heard the name Annika Sorenstam.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: I would disagree with the statement that the LPGA is a "lesser" league -- I think "separate" league is more accurate. The Nike Tour and the Seniors/Champions Tour are "lesser" leagues. In the same way, the WNBA is a "separate" league from the NBA, while the CBA and NCAA are "lesser" leagues.

That being said, there is no reason that someone from a "separate" league can't attempt to compete in the best league available. More power to Sorenstam. I dearly hope she makes the cut.

Sally Jenkins: LPGA courses are 500 to 1000 yards shorter, the greens are less severe, the rough is shorter and the competition is weaker. WNBA plays with a smaller ball and has lower shooting percentages. By definition they are therefore "lesser" leagues, though not by much, and this has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with the set up of the game. When LPGA tournaments are played on courses that are as demanding as PGA courses, I will consider them equal.


Arlington, Va.: I am glad you one the event but let's put things in perspective

Annika hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens and after the first round is still looking in from the outside on the cut. If a PGA pro had done that well he would have been sitting at 6 or 7 under. I am not condemming her -- she played well but her play is indicative of the differences of the PGA and LPGA. Her putting was awful. With the course drying out some today making her second shot pretty difficult. I figure she will probably miss the cut by a stroke or two but beat some tour pros.

Sally Jenkins: Sabatini the leader of the tournament hit just 5 fairways all day and shot 6 under. Phil Nickelson didn't hit a fairway that anyone could discern and shot 3 under. Putting was in fact the difference and the irony is that it is not the length that has trouble Sorenstam in the least, it was that she was such a lousy putter yesterday. But she can also get very hot with her putter and shot a 59 a couple of years ago at an LPGA event.


Acton, Mass.: Sally,
I am somewhat irritated that people are surprised Anika would do so well. Where have they been? Has anyone watched her over the past couple of years? Golf is one of the sports arenas where men and women can compete on an equal footing
That stunningly ignorant comment by Armstrong Williams about a high school player being Anika's equivalent makes me wonder why some people are allowed to speak in public. What a country.
I expect Anika to shoot in the 60's today and make the cut. I am a guy, but I'm rooting for Anika to win it all.

Sally Jenkins: What Sorenstam did yesterday was simply what she does all the time week in and week out -- that is how she plays golf -- and anyone who as paid even 10 minutes of attention to the LPGA tour would know that. What is stunning to me is how many people want Sorenstam to "qualify" to play at Colonial when they are not qualified to so much as comment on the subject. Anyone who wants to discuss Sorenstam should be required to watch an LPGA event before they open their mouths.

I personally would like to see Sorenstam play more PGA tour events. I firmly believe there are a half a dozen tournaments where she could be at least this well, and I too believe she will make the cut this afternoon -- if she makes some puts. I fully expect her to play as brilliantly from tee to green as she did yesterday because it was no fluke. She does it all the time.


washingtonpost.com:


That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the
discussion.

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company