ORLANDO, Fla. -- Annika Sorenstam has dominated her
competition on the LPGA Tour the last two seasons. Her next
challenge might be against the men.
Sorenstam said Wednesday she would relish the chance to play a
PGA Tour event, provided she received a sponsor's exemption and the
tournament was held on a golf course that suits her game.
''If I got an invite, I would say yes in a heartbeat,'' she said
at Bay Hill Club and Lodge during an appearance for Callaway Golf.
''It's a great challenge. It's not something I want to do
regularly. But it would be a great learning experience.''
Her agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG, said the chances of that
happening this year are ''very possible,'' as long as it's the
right tournament, the right course, and it fits her LPGA Tour
''I suspect that after today, there will be more than one
tournament that is very interested,'' he said. ''There are going to
be several tournaments that will not even consider it. That would
be my guess. But there will be quite a few that express some
Eric Mehl, tournament director of the 84 Lumber Classic of
Pennsylvania, said it is too early to determine how the new event
will use its sponsor's exemptions in September.
"It's definitely intriguing,'' he said when told of Sorenstam's
comments. "We'll look to see what's best for the tournament.''
PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said the tour has no regulations
against women playing, and that tournaments have the flexibility to
use their exemptions to round out the field or to create interest.
He said it was ''conceivable'' that a tournament would offer
Sorenstam an exemption.
The topic came up when Sorenstam, who won 13 times around the
world last year and set or tied nearly two dozen records, was asked
about Suzy Whaley.
Whaley, a Connecticut club pro, won a PGA sectional from a
shorter set of tees than the men and qualified for the Greater
Hartford Open in late July. She will be the first woman to play on
the PGA Tour in the modern era.
Whaley will have to play from the championship tees with the
''I think she's very brave,'' Sorenstam said. ''She's doing this
to show her daughters that anything is possible. I heard in an
interview that she doesn't expect to break 90. At least she has a
goal set, and she knows what's going to happen.''
Sorenstam doesn't think Whaley's score, no matter how high,
would be a setback for women's golf. She pointed out that Whaley is
primarily a teaching pro, not a touring professional who competes
The 32-year-old Swede has higher goals if she ever gets that
''If I pick the right course, I think I would do well,'' she
said, adding that she could only compete if the course wasn't
excessively long, had tight fairways and punishing rough, which she
rarely gets into as the LPGA's best driver.
Hilton Head was offered as an example, although Sorenstam will
be defending her title that week in the LPGA Takefugi Classic.
Sorenstam has some experience competing against the men. She
teamed with Tiger Woods two years ago at Bighorn when they defeated
David Duval and Karrie Webb in an alternate-shot match.
It wasn't the best plug for women's golf -- neither Sorenstam nor
Webb could find the fairway on the final few holes, and Sorenstam
putted one ball off the green.
Last month in Mexico, Sorenstam and Jack Nicklaus played to a
tie against Duval and Lorena Ochoa in an 18-hole exhibition.
If she did play in a PGA Tour event, Sorenstam doesn't think the
perception of women's golf would depend on her performance. She
says women already face unfair comparisons to the men, from length
off the tee to the amount of prize money.
''It would be more beneficial if I did well,'' she said. ''If
not, then I don't think it would change anything.''
Steinberg said she first broached the possibility during her
2002 season, when she won 10 times on the LPGA Tour and earned $2.8
Still, Sorenstam said playing against the men is not a priority,
and most of it is timing.
Along with Whaley qualifying for Hartford, 13-year-old Michelle
Wie of Hawaii tried to qualify for the Sony Open last week. She
shot a 73 from the back tees at Pearl Country Club, finishing six
strokes out of a playoff.
''I'm interested,'' Sorenstam said. ''Now you've got Suzy
Whaley, and that's such a big deal. I don't think the timing is
right. But I'm playing so well, I don't want to wait too long. It's
not on my priority list, but if I have a chance, I'd love to do