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Annika vs. Danica

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Whose feat was more significant: Annika Sorenstam playing against the men at Colonial in 2003 or Danica Patrick winning the Daytona 500 pole?

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COLONIAL
DAYTONA

Annika braved a new world

Voepel By Mechelle Voepel
ESPN.com
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Annika and Danica are only-one-name-needed female sports celebrities. And each experienced a moment where the spotlight shined as never before: Annika playing in the Colonial in 2003; Danica winning the Daytona 500 pole this year.

For Annika, it was a one time-time thing: She was invited to play at the PGA Tour event on a sponsor's exemption. It was prompted by her dominant play on the LPGA Tour, where she already counted four majors among her 43 victories and had been named player of the year five times.

She would become the first woman in 58 years to play against the men in a PGA Tour event and then go on to win six more majors among 29 additional titles.

For Danica, competing against male drivers is what she does all the time. And has since she was 10.

As for which achievement resonated more, you could make the case for Annika this way:

Playing golf is a more common endeavor than driving a race car 182 mph. To that end, Annika's Colonial appearance may have affected more people. Males and females share golf courses, and Annika's play perhaps brought women golfers greater respect.

Also, Annika's Colonial experience didn't just impact her but the entire LPGA Tour. As the No. 1 player at the time, Sorenstam was representing her colleagues and brought them additional exposure.

As to where they rank in terms of career accomplishment, Annika is in a small group as one of the best in her sport. Danica is not at that level yet, but she still has time.

Danica excelled on biggest stage

James By Brant James
ESPN.com
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Annika Sorenstam playing in the 2003 Colonial was a monumental feat. But it was a one-time feat, in an event that doesn't stir ambitions and egos like the Daytona 500.

So if a comparison is made between Sorenstam's venture into the talent pool of the PGA and Danica Patrick's claiming of the pole at this season's Daytona 500, one simple truth favors Patrick: Sorenstam played in a single, ordinary event, while Patrick led the field to the start of the crown jewel of the NASCAR season.

In golf parlance, the Daytona 500 is the Masters, a race that makes careers, sells merchandise and seals legacies. The Colonial ... where is that played, anyway?

Patrick's history-making did not stop with the commencement of the Daytona 500. She was third on a final restart and there was legitimate speculation whether the rookie could actually win NASCAR's most important race. A massive television audience -- no coincidence -- was tuned in.

Ultimately, she finished eighth, but her aptitude for restrictor-plate racing had placed her in a position not just to compete in an event, but to win. And her story became an inspiration to legions of little girls.

After the pomp had finally waned, Patrick went on to the next race, and the next one after that.

Patrick's big day after the big day of winning the pole wasn't set aside for revisiting in a decade. It was another day in a 38-week racing schedule, against men, women, all comers.

And maybe that is the biggest deal of all.

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