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Nothing to gain and lots to lose

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam will be the first woman in 58 years to play against men on their professional tour.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- There is little doubt that Annika Sorenstam can give me six a side and cruise to victory. I acknowledge that, have a white flag flapping in the wind creating a sound akin to the applause of the gallery as she birdies the 18th, and have no problem at all conceding defeat to the gentler and more proficient sex. She is the female equivalent to Babe Ruth in golf. A Swedish lovely who carded 13 tournaments around the world last year.

But May 22nd, at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas may prove to be a matter of considerable difference. The 32-year old is the first woman in 58 years to play against men on their professional tour. This is easily the same as spitting in the wind and there is no way that she is going to muster enough strength to hit the spittoon on the other side of the street. The fact of the matter is that she will probably not make the cut. Nothing gained. There will not be any chivalry. No one will dog it or generously blow a putt so she can show up to play again. There are no gimmes to get into the final days.

Tiger will not be there so the center of attraction will be guess who? And it is a short tight course. Stupid she is not.

Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods
Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods played golf together during the prime-time Battle at Big Horn event. However, Tiger will not play at the Colonial.
When Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Nick Price, David Toms, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Jim Furyk and the other 117 or so that show to tee it up trying to make the final 72, her average drive of 265.6 yards from the tips will pale against some of their launched rockets. If Tiger were on the scene, and that is not likely, can you imagine her being paired with him and his interplanetary missiles?although length on the Colonial is not the prerequisite for success.

On a par-70 golf course, 72 to 74 for each of the first two days will not do it. The par 4 doglegs are to her advantage and distance will not be the catalyst to success but, as Yogi Berra might have said, "It couldn't hoit." And, hitting her four iron against their seven or eight with an 80 percent average of making the green won't be that advantageous this time around. The 7,080 yards is 600-700 yards longer than the average LPGA course, but is not daunting and the course has only two par 5's. Nice but no cigar and no spending spree at Victoria's Secret.

What golfer on the PGA tour wants to come in second to Annika, no matter how pretty, smart or talented she is? There is definitely a point where being a gracious loser does not work. Bobby Riggs was over the hill when a youthful, talented, physical, focused, passionate, exciting, and win at all costs Billie Jean King took him to task. Might he have done better in his prime? Probably. Was this one all for publicity and fun? Yes. Was he expected to lose? Sure. Did he care? Nah.

Pin placement for this one will be as tough as it gets. Right over the lip of the bunker. On the edge of that spot where anything short will roll back 30 yards and off the green. Half the hole in water with a small rubber duck floating in it. Between the legs of a cameraman or up against the stands. Under the chair of a spectator or in the shadow of the spruce. Easy it will not be.

Over par last year was good enough to make the cut by four shots. Not about to happen this time around. Just as Tiger is able to raise the level of play of others chasing his score there will be added incentive with the addition of Sorenstam. No one out there wants to hear, "You gotta be kidding me! She beat you? You're thinking of asking for a special exemption to hit from the white tees next week? How about the reds?"

Colonial Country Club 18th Hole
A general view of the 18th hole during the final round of last year's event at Colonial C.C. in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Drive for play and putt for pay will take on a new meaning for the Colonial. All will be driving with an eye on Sorenstam and her score. She is supposed to miss the cut. She is supposed to wilt. She is an odds-on favorite to prove that there is a line between the sexes that transcends the idiocy at Augusta. It cuts deeper (no pun intended). All that will be gained is affirmation that women play at a different level than the men. That is not to take away from their abilities, from their talents on the course. But, they can also toss a basketball through the hoop, put the puck in the net, kick the ball between the uprights, windmill a softball to the catcher before your bat leaves your shoulder or gobble up a hot shot at shortstop.

They cannot go head to head with the men, not here, not there, not soccer, tennis, swimming, skiing, sailing, kayaking, running, pole vaulting or much else. Outdo them in figure skating? This is possible. Better on the balance beam? You bet. Show them up on floor exercises? Got my vote. However, in most cases, it's not about to happen. It is the nature of things.

Golf has a line down the center of it? women to the left, men to the right and the twain are not about to meet on the fairways of Colonial. The other side of the coin says that Annika is not supposed to win, not supposed to be competitive (with some rare exceptions) and just wants to be out there establishing a rivalry, making a point and vying for status. Equality on the links is not about to happen. Nothing to prove, nothing to win.

Has anyone checked the LPGA rules recently about men competing with them on their tour? Only females (at birth) may go through LPGA Q-School to become members of the LPGA. Also, under Tournament Regulations and tournament contracts, sponsor's exemptions may only be granted to females (at birth), and Monday qualifiers are open only to LPGA Tour members, sponsor's exemptions, and certain members of the Teaching and Club Professional (T&CP) Division, who also must be female (at birth). In essence. the USGA says that you must be born female to play in any women?s event. Interpretation is not very open here. How many guys do you know that are pregnant these days, pauses aside? I am all for what the women are trying to accomplish at Augusta but talk about discrimination! I guess that the "females at birth" category eliminates, quite clearly, anyone that goes through an operation that comes with thongs and bras as going away presents following recuperation.

Those who will not be playing the Colonial might be breathing a sigh of relief right now but they will be watching with hands on cell phones to contact anyone that they know whose score is behind hers. Any guy that loses to her will have to purchase a year's subscription to all of the Lanc?me products in the catalogue. Fredericks of Hollywood will do their wardrobe. Jay Leno and David Letterman will be relentless in castigating them. Dennis Miller will rant and rave with glee. George Carlin will be merciless.

If the Queen of England showed up to play she would not be treated better than Sorenstam upon her arrival at Colonial. Four bearers are not out of the question, limo, super accommodations, no waiting in line for food or at the ladies room, a locker room with only one occupant and more cameramen following you than if you had Julia Roberts as your caddy? which might not be a bad idea.

She has to wear shorts. She must wear them. It is expected, desired, sought after, and demanded. That is why she will go to the slacks. Major disappointment. If she is granted that, do the men follow suit and start making inquiry about their attire for the next tour stop? I think not. Decorum, modesty and pressure will win out. Slacks. Form fitting? Wishful thinking.

There is nothing to gain here and much to lose if Annika embarrasses herself. She might play well and all will attest that she is as good as her records indicate. If she does not, the smirks, giggles and snickers will be heard coast to coast. If Annika wants to test herself, let her go out and play Colonial on a nice day and then turn her score in?and another day, and another after that.

It was 1954 in Los Angeles when Babe Didrickson Zaharias qualified for and played in the Open. She made the cut but shot a 79 in the third round and was eliminated. Susan Whaley, a club pro from Connecticut qualified to play in the Greater Hartford Open in July last year. Now it is Sorenstam. Does she really have a shot at winning, of being competitive? Is this just a giant public relations ploy to replace the absence of Tiger for this stop on the tour? Is the network loving it? Are ratings about to go up? Will we see a new group of advertisers gracing our screens at home? Is this a trend-setting step in golf? You gotta be kidding!