The Best of the PGA Tour May Be All Wet
Right here, in this city built on either side of the Trinity River, is supposed to be where the West begins, a stopping point for cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail, where gunfighters once plied their trade and where Bonnie and Clyde slept between heists, at the Stockyards Hotel. This is also the home of Billy Bob’s Texas, billing itself as the world’s biggest honky-tonk.
And for the next several days, it’s also the home of the Bank of America Colonial, which should be billing itself as the world’s biggest circus.
The 57th Colonial might be called something else, of course, the first men’s professional golf event in 58 years to feature a female player, but that’s simply too mild an assessment.
If Fort Worth has a rich heritage, so does the PGA Tour, which is the workplace for the best collection of golfers in the world. Annika Sorenstam is punching the same time clock at Colonial as 113 male tour pros, including Mark Calcavecchia, Steve Elkington, Lee Janzen, Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, Corey Pavin, Nick Price, Jeff Sluman, David Toms and Bob Tway -- each of them a winner of at least one major championship title.
There hasn’t been any open resentment of Sorenstam by the male players here and there probably isn’t going to be, only an increasing amount of grumbling, probably the kind that surfaced Wednesday.
Toms, a member of the PGA Tour policy board, said it’s possible that they might close a loophole in the bylaws and write a rule limiting the competition to men.
It’s a matter of direction for the tour, Toms said, and judging by what has been going on, it’s pretty clear at least some of the male pros don’t like the direction Sorenstam’s entry is taking it.
Let’s make a quick count. Vijay Singh says Sorenstam doesn’t belong, and so does Price. At about the same time, some players fret privately about finishing behind Sorenstam. The media pick up on it and jump on the bandwagon with both feet, sending the Sorenstam-at-Colonial issue soaring to an even larger audience than anyone expected.
He didn’t do it on purpose, but Singh had as much to do with the frenzy over Sorenstam as the player herself. If he wants it, Singh has a second career as a carnival barker.
There is no shortage of conventional wisdom floating around Colonial about how Sorenstam will play and what it will mean if she plays great or she stinks up the place, so let’s hit the high points.
It rained Tuesday. It rained Wednesday. It might rain today. Most believe that if the greens stay soft, it’s going to help Sorenstam because she can keep the ball on the greens with longer irons. Also, she wouldn’t need to play as conservatively and aim for the center of the greens.
The downside is that the course will play even longer for her because the fairways also are soft and the ball won’t roll as much.
What she should hope for, of course, are firm fairways and soft greens.
Sorenstam starts at the 10th hole and has a chance to birdie the first two holes. The 10th is only 404 yards and the 11th is a par five, albeit a long one of 609 yards.
She begins her second nine with a par five at No. 1 -- another birdie chance.
The pins will be tucked, either at the edge of greens or just steps from a bunker, and difficult to approach, not at all like the setup typical of an LPGA course.
Sorenstam is one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour, but she’s not even close to being one of the most accurate. She sometimes struggles with her putting and getting up and down if she misses the green. None of those problem areas can show up this week if she wants to make the cut.
More media and near-nonstop television coverage than Sorenstam has experienced will present chances for distractions of epic proportions. The media have had an unquenchable thirst for news and left no angle untouched, including an item in the Dallas Morning News about how much hungry reporters had tipped the staff in the media lunch room.
The number was $88.50.
Sorenstam has to avoid a number like that. She can afford no slip-ups and must avoid a big number today and Friday. If she is reaching her goal of level par, a double bogey today and another Friday take her to four over, and that’s probably enough to miss the cut.
She has never tackled anything like this before.
Her agent says that even if Sorenstam falls on her face, it’s not going to hurt her. Chances are he’s right.
Whatever happens, whether Sorenstam reaches her goal of par, makes the cut and plays the weekend or whether she shoots a million, at least we’re going to find out, and soon. Everyone, especially Sorenstam, seems relieved about that.
As she stood under a tree near the practice putting green Wednesday afternoon, addressing an impromptu assembly of close to 100 reporters standing in a downpour, Sorenstam made a quick observation.
“It’s raining, you guys.”
She needs to hope it starts raining birdies, and soon.