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GOLF Female will test the men



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Annika Sorenstam, the most dominant player in women's golf, will play on the PGA Tour.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Annika Sorenstam is venturing into the unknown, and even she isn't sure how she'll do against the men on the PGA Tour.

Pretty well, if you believe a few players who should know.

Phil Mickelson guesses Sorenstam will make the cut at the Colonial and finish 20th or so. Jack Nicklaus also thinks the most dominant player in women's golf will do well.

"The biggest problem she is going to have is the hard greens, which she doesn't see a lot on the women's tour," Nicklaus said. "But she's a very good player. If she plays very well, would she finish in the top 20 or something? Could she win? Probably not. She's certainly capable of making the cut. She's a very good player."

Sorenstam will be taking advantage of a relatively short course and one that suits her accurate game, when she tees it up for the Colonial in Texas in May. She said Thursday she'll begin practicing playing on the back tees and working on her short game to get ready.

Sorenstam is nervous about playing with the men, and not sure how she will do. She does know one thing, though -- she won't be playing scared.

"I'm not afraid to face this at all," Sorenstam said. "I'm going to enjoy the journey to Colonial."

Sorenstam also left open the possibility of further forays into men's golf, if she can do what no woman has done in nearly six decades and compete successfully in a PGA Tour event.

"Right now I'm just going to leave it at one and see what happens," Sorenstam said, before adding: "I'm not ruling anything out now."

Her options

Sorenstam's future options might be limited, even though she is the best player in women's golf, but believes she can hit it far enough to compete on the 7,080-yard Colonial course.

Sorenstam admitted as much in echoing a complaint that many PGA Tour pros have -- that most of today's courses are set up to favor long hitters.

"There's 90 percent of courses on the PGA Tour where I wouldn't have a chance," Sorenstam said. "It would be ridiculous to try."

Sorenstam obviously believes that isn't the case at the Colonial, a shotmaker's course that favors straight hitters and where many long hitters will be using irons or fairway woods off the tees.

With Sorenstam hitting her drives 270 yards or so, that takes away some of the advantage the men might have over her.

"I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. That's my strength," she said. "If I'm hitting a lot of shots out of the rough or chipping, that's not really my strength. I want to be a smart player there and put it in the middle of the fairway and on the greens."

One player unlikely to be there is Tiger Woods, who hasn't played the Colonial since 1997. Woods said on Wednesday that if Sorenstam plays poorly, it could be bad for women's golf.

"That's Tiger's opinion," Sorenstam said. "This is good for women's golf. This is good for me in many ways. If I can play better golf after this, I'll take it back to the LPGA and I'll raise the level there."




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