<
>

Shark: Women in men's events a marketing ploy

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Greg Norman made it clear Tuesday
that he believes women have no place in men's golf events.

The Australian star dismissed women in men's events as a
marketing ploy, and said men's tours should consider changing their
bylaws to prevent women from receiving sponsor's exemptions.

"I think the situation is more of a marketing ploy than
anything else," Norman said. "If the girls come out and think
they can play against the guys and fail every time, that can't be
very positive."

Norman's comments came three weeks after 14-year-old Michelle
Wie missed the cut by a stroke in the Sony Open, a stunning effort
that prompted seven other PGA Tour events to offer her exemptions.

Last year, Annika Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years
to compete on the PGA Tour, missing the cut by five shots in the
Colonial.

"I'm very impressed with her game, very impressed with her
attitude and demeanor at such a young age," Norman said about Wie.

"But I think the rightful place is that women play on their
tour and we play on ours. It all started with Annika to promote
herself and promote women's golf, but at the end of the day, it can
be very detrimental."

Norman, preparing for the Heineken Classic, addressed the
subject when asked to comment on Laura Davies' appearance next week
in the ANZ Championship -- the first start by a female player in an
event sanctioned by the European and Australasian tours.

"I think everyone is just jumping on it, and it's got to
stop," Norman said. "How do we stop it? It's up to our
administrators to come up with the wording of our bylaws.

"The players have got to vote it in on a majority vote. We
can't go play on their tour because we're not female, that's the
wording they have in their bylaws. I think we should do something
about it."

Ernie Els, seeking his third straight win in the Heineken
Classic, said eventually men will begin complaining if women get
too many sponsor's exemptions.

"I think there might be quite a few men who might oppose it,"
Els said. "I'm not quite sure about the future of that -- how many
girls are going to be good enough to play. We can't keep on giving
them invites if there are guys good enough to get sponsor's
exemptions."

But Els admitted that if men's golf has no bylaws preventing
women from playing, and if someone such as Wie qualified to play,
then they should be allowed on the men's tour.

"If they go through the tour school, they must be good enough
to play," Els said. "You've got to give them a chance."

Els said that the tours around the world should come up with a
uniform way of dealing with it.

"I think it's becoming a bit of an issue now," Els said. "I
think the commissioners will have to start thinking about."

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the issue Sunday in
Scottsdale, Ariz., at the FBR Open.

"Is it an issue if a 14-year-old gets a sponsor exemption?
That's really not an issue," Finchem said. "The issue is if a
tournament gives sponsor exemptions to a player or an individual
who is clearly not competitive, just for publicity purposes, that's
something we wouldn't care to see.

"A trend? No. If it happens once in a while, we're not going to
get excited. But, you know, Michelle Wie played quite well and, at
14, if she continues to develop, I'm not sure you can make the case
that she's not competitive when she misses the cut by a shot."

Norman said sponsors on the women's tours are being
shortchanged.

"The other thing that I am very concerned about is in the U.S.,
there was a major women's sponsor, Corning Ware, sponsoring the
tournament opposite the Colonial last year," he said.

"Those people put up millions of dollars to have Annika come
there, but that week, they were a nonentity.

"If I were a sponsor, I'd say, 'Where is my value? My value is
because I want to have Annika play, or Laura Davies, or Michelle
Wie.' I feel sorry for those sponsors because they've been very
much a dedicated part of women's golf. I just don't think it's
right."

Norman isn't sure what he'd do if a woman was in a tournament he
was scheduled to play in.

"That's a good question, it's hard for me to answer that
straight off the bat," he said. "It would depend on what the golf
tournament would be. I'd certainly think about it."