Lady in red a long shot to make the cut

LINKING UP: In a game known for good sports, Annika Sorenstam brought out the worst in some and the best in others. What will she bring out in heself?


Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 23

One of golf's attributes is that it's known as a gentleman's game. It has etiquette and manners. Win or lose, be gracious. Walking off the 18th green, shake hands.

But ever since Annika Sorenstam, the world's best women's golfer, accepted her invitation to tee off on Sunday in the Colonial, some of golf's gentlemen haven't been.

Vijay Singh, ranked No. 7 in the world, growled that "she doesn't belong here," hoped she would miss the 36-hole cut, then withdrew Sunday after winning the Byron Nelson tournament. Nick Price, the defending Colonial champion, acknowledged that she had "proven herself" as a "great gal with a great game" but resented that she hadn't really qualified to play here. Not that chivalry is dead on the PGA Tour.

"I've had several guys come up to me and wish me good luck," Sorenstam said Tuesday. "Tom Pernice especially was very, very friendly. He said if I needed anything, any help, just talk to him. Fred Funk was the first guy to come up to me and there's been numerous guys. I had breakfast with Jeff Sluman. The guys, I don't know them all either, so it might take awhile to talk to them."

The extent of "awhile" is what her presence here is all about: will she make the cut and play the final two rounds on the weekend?

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but some believe she will make the cut. Over the last 10 years in various weather at this tightly bunkered 7,080-yard par-70 course, the average cut number has been 142.3. Rain the last two days has softened the greens and thickened the rough, but if Sorenstam is' on her game, she's certainly capable of shooting, say, 72-70.

Sorenstam has won 53 tournaments worldwide, including 13 last year. On her game, she shot 59 in a Phoenix event in 2001.

In Wednesday's rain-shortened pro-am, she was unofficially one over par for 10 holes with a 35-foot chip-in birdie at the 240-yard No. 4.

Like most LPGA female pros, Sorenstam relies on straight-as-arrow shots off the tee or to the green. The men all tend to draw or fade the ball more. They also spin the ball more, especially with their short irons, allowing them to hit the ball closer to the hole.

"Men get that spin," Sorenstam said, "because they have more strength and the angle they come in at with the club."

On the hole-by-hole scoreboard in the news media center, the name of each PGA pro is in black ink. Halfway down the last of the six scoring sheets, "Sorenstam" is in red. But in the 18 columns for the 18 holes next to her name, the lady in red, who once wore red shoes while winning the Nabisco Championship, needs some numbers in red. That's red for a birdie.