In 1997 Tiger Woods was supposedly bad for the PGA Tour. His brash, demonstrative behavior -- complete with fist pumps -- was going to destroy the tour. Instead, Woods revolutionized the sport. Now it could be Annika Sorenstam's turn.
By playing in the Bank of America Colonial, she has the opportunity to one up Tiger. Tiger merely increased awareness of the PGA Tour. Sorenstam has the ability to increase awareness of the LPGA Tour and the PGA Tour. If she plays well in this tournament, it's more than just another golfer playing well. She'll give more exposure to the LPGA than it's ever received in its history.
|Sorenstam hopes to put the controversy behind her and just play golf.|
It's impossible to downplay the positive effect her appearance is having for golf. The Colonial is generating the type of publicity that is normally reserved for majors. Last year the tournament issued 262 media credentials. This year they are at 539 and counting. The interview room has increased by over 400 percent and will be occupied by journalists from countries as far and wide as Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Korea and Thailand. She's made Fort Worth, Texas the spot to be.
There are some who have criticized Sorenstam for accepting a sponsor's exemption instead of qualifying for the tournament. They say that if she wants to play in a PGA Tour tournament then she should have to qualify for it like a man would. This criticism rings hollow since Phil Mickelson and Tiger used exemptions during college and in Tiger's case since he was a teenager. In 2001, David Gosset won the John Deere Classic on a sponsor's exemption and Tiger won his first tournament while using an exemption. And in 1992, sponsors of the Kemper Open gave an exemption to then-Washington Redskins QB Mark Rypien. He posted an 80-91 and missed the cut by 28 shots. Something tells me Sorenstam will finish better than that.
Colonial isn't letting Pam Anderson, Heather Locklear or even Mark Rypien in their tournament. They're letting one of the best golfers in the world play. In 10 years on the tour, Sorenstam has absolutely dominated while posting a resume that could make even Tiger envious. Already she's eligible for the LPGA's Hall of Fame. She's won the Player of the Year trophy five times, has four majors in her bag and 43 official victories. And last year she had one of the greatest seasons in golf history --male or female -- winning 13 times around the world.
All Sorenstam wants to do is see if she can compete with the best golfers. I don't think that's asking too much. She's a great golfer and I look forward to seeing how she plays with the best in the world.