Woods, Sorenstam put in extra effort
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Tiger Woods invited British Open champion David Duval and the best two women golfers into his prime-time arena. The only thing missing was the kind of golf that has made each of them a star.
"I would like to do it again," Woods said after he and Annika Sorenstam won in 19 holes Monday night over Duval and Karrie Webb. "Hopefully, we can play a little better next time."That shouldn't be too much to ask.
The foursome of major championship winners managed only five birdies in the alternate-shot format. Eight of the 19 holes were won with a par.
Woods and Sorenstam left each other in such bad shape off the tee that on consecutive holes, each had to invert clubs because their only option was to play the shot left-handed.
Webb ran a 25-foot birdie putt a mere 60 feet by the hole.
Sorenstam had a 25-foot birdie putt than ran 30 yards into the fairway.
When it finally ended at 12:20 a.m. ET, about the same time as most Monday Night Football games, the Battle at Bighorn was more like a fight for survival.
Trailing by two holes with only three to play, Woods and Sorenstam rallied with only one memorable stroke -- a 10-foot birdie putt by Sorenstam on the 18th hole that extended the match and caused the lights at Bighorn to burn for another 25 minutes.
"Overall, it was just a really tough day," Woods said.
It showed just about everywhere.
"It was hot, dusty and we lost," Duval said. "That combination is not good."
Alistair Johnston, the head of IMG's golf division, was asked how the third annual made-for-TV event measured up. He closed his eyes, rubbed his forehead and looked as though he was the one who had to spend 4½ hours in 100-plus heat and whipping winds.
"Too long," he said. "Too flat."
The event was made for TV, and preliminary ratings were down.
National ratings were 6.1, compared with 6.9 for Woods vs. Duval two years ago and 7.6 for Sergio Garcia's victory over Woods last year. Each rating points represents 1.02 million households tuned in.
Despite the ragged play brought on by brutally tough conditions, the Battle at Bighorn still delivered the largest audience to watch women play golf.
The rating was 1.1 when Sorenstam won the LPGA's first major of the season, the Nabisco Championship, as part of a great run in which she won four straight tournaments and became the first woman to shoot 59.
Such opportunity was not lost on Sorenstam and Webb. They didn't play up to their standards, but had no regrets about skipping two important days of practice for the Women's British Open, their final major of the year that starts Thursday in England.
"I don't see it as a sacrifice," Sorenstam said. "I see it as a great opportunity."
The opportunity for a shootout disappeared as soon as they left the practice range and went to the putting green, where they were exposed to wind that eventually featured gusts of close to 30 mph.
"It was just tough conditions out there," Woods said. "When you play in this type of format under tough conditions, it's really tough to get your rhythm. All of us were struggling."
All looked a little embarrassed at times, too.
Sorenstam tiptoed to the edge of the green and looked down a steep slope toward a dense patch of desert weeds, wincing at the mess she left on the first hole for Woods to clean up. He didn't get it done, they took bogey -- and still halved the hole when Duval and Webb combined to three-putt from about 30 feet.
Next up was Webb, whose 25-foot birdie putt on No. 2 missed the cup by 3 feet, then continued rolling until it was some 60 feet away.
At least the finish contained some suspense.
Webb and Duval were on the verge of making it an early night until Duval came up 10 feet short on a birdie putt on the 16th hole, and Webb missed the ensuring par putt.
The highlight for the women came on No. 18, but only after Sorenstam and Webb each missed the fairway. Woods saved the day, hitting wedge into 10 feet and Sorenstam made the birdie putt to extend the match.
Back to the 18th tee they went. Back into trouble went their drives.
Only this time, Webb left hers on the downslope of a bunker, and Duval couldn't reach the green when he caught too much sand. Woods recovered again from the rough, and their two-putt par was good enough for the victory.
Woods and Sorenstam split the $1.2 million winner's share from the $1.7 million purse.
"It was a thrill to come here today and play with the best players in the world," Sorenstam said. "I didn't play as well as I would have liked, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I had a good partner."
Ultimately, these exhibitions are all about Woods, anyway.