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Friday, June 24, 2005
Updated: June 27, 12:07 PM ET
Join the men, Annika

By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Playboy is offering millions if she'll pose topless on her motorcycle.

Rumor has it Brad Pitt might leave Angelina for her – if she'll dump Orlando Bloom.

She regularly outdrives Tiger Woods in $100,000-a-hole games and almost always makes him pay in golf and poker.

Annika Sorenstam
Just win, baby: Sorenstam has won six of the eight tournaments she's played this year.

She is …

Sorry, none of the above is true. I made it all up because I wanted you to read at least three paragraphs about the world's most phenomenal golfer.

Her name is Danica Gulbis-Wie.

Sorry. Just trying to keep your fingers from involuntarily hitting the "back" arrow as soon as your eyes hit the words "Annika Sorenstam."

Annika has become the most astonishing story in sports because she isn't treated like the most astonishing story. If Annika falls in the forest and nobody is there, does she make a sound?

At the start of the year, she announced her goal was to win the first Grand Slam ever by a woman or a man – basically predicted she would – and now she's gunning for the third of four legs!

Yawn, goes the world.

Annika has won six of the eight tournaments she has entered this year and eight of her last 10!

What time does Michelle Wie tee off?

Annika has finished first or second in 101 of her 236 career tournaments!

Bor-ring. When does Natalie Gulbis start her reality show, and will her main squeeze, Ben Roethlisberger, make an appearance?

Annika leads the women's tour in driving distance, but the sports world is still captivated by the 500 miles Danica Patrick drove at Indy. She didn't win, but she did lead late in the race. Who cares that she made three costly rookie mistakes, including stalling her car in the pits?

Danica has long, dark hair and posed for a seductive magazine spread. Danica drives 200 mph against guys. Danica will overheat your engine, dude.

The only thing sensational about Annika is her record.

And these days, winning isn't nearly enough, especially if you're female. The target demo for many advertisers – male, age 18 to 34 – is too easily distracted by better-than-reality video games, a surfer's paradise of cable stations and a tangled Web of temptation. Today's world has been entertained into numbness.

A woman playing golf – even if she's dominating her tour in ways Tiger never dominated his – just isn't enough. Does Annika hit shots you've never seen before? No. Does she act the way Tiger did at the U.S. Open, screaming a profanity in front of the 18th-green stands, slamming clubs and angrily raking his putter across a green? Sorry, no.

Most guys would rather watch beer commercials than watch Annika play golf. She's like Tim Duncan, who just won his third NBA Finals MVP – she's subtly great. Subtle doesn't sell.

Watching Tiger is like tracking an approaching thunderstorm. Will he suddenly hail birdies or bogeys? Annika spoils us with calm, perfect weather day after day.

The most interesting aspect of her game is that she does what beginners are taught not to – she looks up before hitting every shot. That has always helped her shift her weight from back foot to front. Her swing is so grooved that she can make solid contact and hit radar shots blindfolded!

Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer
Teenagers Michelle Wie (left) and Paula Creamer have even been getting more pub then Sorenstam.

When is Sharapova's next Wimbledon match?

Unlike Wie, Annika isn't an increasingly shapely and attractive 6-foot 15-year-old capable of launching tee shots over Magic Mountain. Unlike Gulbis, Annika isn't a blond bombshell in formfitting golf tops.

It isn't that Annika is unattractive – I think she's kind of cute. And her body could be sexy if she chose to display it that way. In fact, this lady is so ripped she has had to deny rumors of steroid use. Check out those guns, guys.

But on the course, Annika dresses to win golf tournaments. To some, she looks a little too boyish. To many, her little voice sounds so meek and vulnerable when she takes off her shades and describes her field-crushing rounds.

Yet while Tiger was getting married – and perhaps losing some of his drive and dedication – Annika at 34 was getting divorced and basically marrying her Grand Slam goal. But the tabloids shrugged. Her ex-husband wasn't too interesting, and Annika had little to say about the breakup.

Is Kournikova doing TV at Wimbledon this year?

Tiger will make nearly $90 million in endorsements this year. Annika will make about $4.6 million, according to Golf Digest.

She just doesn't have that "it" factor – that charisma, magnetism, sex appeal.

Her marketability peaked when she announced she would play against the male pros at Colonial. Vijay Singh unwittingly detonated ratings as if he were hyping a Tyson fight by saying what most pros merely thought: She shouldn't be allowed to waltz in and take a male pro's spot. She should have to qualify.

Singh, ironically, has been the male Annika. The greatness of his game isn't enough. Many fans find him boring – or worse, boorish. Ripping Annika cinched it: Vijay was golf's biggest villain.

I didn't think she could make the cut – and she didn't after shooting 71 and 74. But she showed me a humble toughness I wasn't sure she had. She stood up to the breathless buildup and the Tiger-like throngs that followed her. What I suspected was a publicity stunt orchestrated by the agent she and Tiger share turned out to be a revelation.

Annika Sorenstam can hold her own with the guys.

Then she surprised me again by saying she was going back to the women's tour, "where I belong."

Instead, she began to reinforce that she doesn't belong on the women's tour. She hit the weight room and practice tee with a vengeance. It was as if she were preparing to compete against men while beating up on the women.

Since Colonial, Annika has won 19 of 38 women's tournaments!

These teenagers Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel are pretty hot.

Which brings me to my theory about the world's indifference toward Annika: She spoiled us at Colonial. The credibility she gained with the men diminished the credibility of her feats on the women's tour. Now when she wins yet another LPGA major, you tend to think, "No big deal. She probably could be making cuts on the men's tour."

Only, I think she could do more than make cuts.

If she committed full-time to the men's tour for two years, I believe she could win a tournament. She's that good.

I say go for it, Annika. Do it the right way. Go to Q-School in the fall and earn your PGA card. Work through the first-tournament jitters. Let the hype die down. See if you can relax and win.

As you said after Colonial: "Golf wasn't the problem, just all the things around it."

Eliminate those Danica Gulbis-Wie things.

Force the world to notice you again, just for your beyond-Tiger game.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.