So the story line goes something like this ... a woman is trying to make inroads in a golf institution dominated by males, thus touching off controversy and accelerating interest by the media, which sparks increasing levels of criticism by some of those in the middle of it all.
Sound familiar? Augusta National and Martha Burk?
That’s so last month.
Everybody ought to know that golf’s controversy du jour isn’t about Martha and Hootie and the Masters. It’s Annika and Vijay and Colonial.
The battle lines for next week’s gender-influenced tournament are fairly clear. On one side, there’s Annika Sorenstam, the best female player in the world, who wants to test herself and see how well she can do in a PGA Tour event. And if she happens to score a few more endorsements, hey, it’s commerce.
On the other side, there are male pros such as Vijay Singh, who believe if she wants to test herself, there’s already a place just perfect for that, and it’s called the LPGA Tour.
Who’s right? That’s not the right question, which is actually this one: Who cares?
Here we are, scarcely a month after the Masters and we’re looking at another controversy for golf, which isn’t known for producing much of it, other than caddies wearing shorts, the shape of grooves and whether the courtesy car is a soothing color.
Now if you believe that Singh is the only player who believes Sorenstam doesn’t belong at Colonial, and that she’s taking the place of some worthy PGA Tour pro, then you’re wrong.
It’s just that Singh has been the most vocal in expressing his opinion, a freedom, by the way, to which he’s still entitled. It’s the Fuzzy Zoeller rule. But as Zoeller found out, it probably would have been better if he had kept his opinion to himself.
Maybe, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
Meanwhile, lost in all the piling-on of Singh is the notion that he actually worries about the last player in the field, one of the eight sponsor’s exemptions that Sorenstam presumably bumped.
No one is quite sure how Sorenstam will fare when she tees it up with the men, but efforts are being made that we see every tension-packed moment on television. USA Network announced Wednesday that it would present live coverage of Sorenstam’s first two rounds.
This is a big change of plans. At first, the network was going to show only two hours of the tournament Thursday and Friday, but now it’s going to start the telecast when Sorenstam tees off.
It’s pretty clear that starting so late is a big mistake. What’s wrong with firing up those cameras when Sorenstam leaps out of bed or when she has breakfast? Think “great television.” Maybe she opens the cereal box with the blade of her sand wedge.
On the weekend, when CBS takes over, an hour of coverage has been added Saturday as homage to what can only be called Sorenstamania.
What if she doesn’t make the cut? Of course, CBS has that covered. If Sorenstam isn’t around, the extra hour is action-packed taped highlights of her first two rounds. If she is still around, then it’s actual live coverage of Sorenstam playing golf.
However, if it’s not taped coverage or live coverage you want, then try cardboard coverage. Sorenstam is featured in a set of trading cards by Upper Deck, marking the first time a woman golfer has appeared in a licensed, mainstream card set.
Of course, Sorenstam’s appearance at Colonial does not mark the first time a female golfer has appeared in a mainstream PGA Tour event. That historic honor belongs to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who last did it in 1945 at the Los Angeles Open ... but that was long before the USA Network, live television coverage, trading-card sets of female golfers or Vijay Singh, for that matter.
The events at Colonial promise to spin a number of juicy plots into play. Sorenstam will discover how strong her power of concentration may be as she ventures into unknown territory, already knowing that not everyone is thrilled to see her there.
But it is Sorenstam’s quest, one of her choosing, and the rewards, both personal and commercial, may be great, especially if she succeeds.
The situation for the male pros may be much different, at least for a few of them. In fact, there is speculation that some players may withdraw from Colonial rather than face Sorenstamania head-on and all the questions associated with it, or even worse, finish behind her.
Stay tuned, round-the-clock coverage begins soon.