Stick around Vijay, you just might learn something

Updated: May 17, 2003, 11:40 PM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

Vijay Singh is playing in the Annika Sorenstam Open, unless he is paired with The Divine Ms. S., and will get no end of grief for doing so.

It's possible Vijay Singh can't see the fun of playing under a type of pressure that has nothing to do with prize money.

The Eldrick is not playing, and will be given his customary pass.

So no, you don't need to know anything more about Golf 2003.

Without boring you with any of the He Said/He Didn't Say, we'll simply say that Singh finds the inclusion of Sorenstam at the Colonial something of an insult, but is playing anyway.

The Eldrick, on the other hand, is taking the week off to help his preparations for the U.S. Open at a Sorenstam-free course next month.

You may decide for yourselves who is the stronger person. Frankly, we're pretty well Burk-ed out after The Masters, and we long ago lost our sense of outrage over an unpopular opinion sincerely delivered.

Plus, Sorenstam is playing, Singh or no Singh, Woods or No Woods. I think the late Mendy Rudolph put it best when he said, "No harm, no foul.''

Thus, we are down to trying to deduce how your average PGA Tour golfer, pride and slightly right-of-center viewpoint, is going to deal with the presence of those noxious media types who will notice Sorenstam's presence and will wait patiently for her to clean at least a few Rolexes, take those names and make sure you never forget them.

Well, most will try to win the tournament, on the theory that Sorenstam can't possibly beat all of them. After all, they guessed right on Hootie's staying power against the relentless but ultimately underclubbed Ms. Burk.

But the fun isn't going to be at the top of the leaderboard, which is probably why Singh's underwear is in such a knot. The fun is going to be found within three strokes of Sorenstam either way, at any given point.

You see, this is going to be cast, the way the Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs pie fight, as more proof that women can do everything men can, except refuse to go to Lamaze class.

Why this matters is anyone's guess. Sorenstam long ago proved everything a golfer can prove, no matter what kind of reproductive system is involved. This isn't about Annika Sorenstam ... it really and truly isn't.

If you think otherwise, then you're downgrading Sorenstam's skills for the sake of proving a point nobody wondered about in the popular comic book format.

No, it's about how men unused to discomfort (I mean, they play in Midnight Mass conditions on grass that doesn't grow naturally anywhere on earth) deal with artificially induced shame.

In this corner, we're fine with that. I mean, what are they, six? You don't want to play, don't play. Nobody will know you're missing.

As for those who are playing, well, consider this incentive if you must. If being beaten by a woman is that much of a problem for you, play better. Don't shoot 82, shoot 72. If 72 doesn't get it done, shoot 69.

And if 69 doesn't do it, then it really is true that she's a hell of a golfer, and there are going to be a lot of fellas in the team photo with you, all saying, "She really is good, isn't she?''

After all, it's the capacity to learn from new experiences that separates us from, say, insects, reptiles and other invertebrates, such as figure skating judges.

So here is what the men get to learn from Annika Sorenstam per se:

Nothing.

Here, though, is what they get to learn from playing with Annika Sorenstam:

Playing under pressure that has nothing to do with prize money. Playing for misplaced pride, prodded by the fear that comes with thinking your friends (or, say, insects, reptiles and other invertebrates, such as golf writers) will laugh at you.

So laugh back. Or don't. It's all snicks and giggles here anyway.

And that's the thing to remember. It's golf, but it isn't golf the way you're used to seeing it -- from the top down.

It's Friday golf, only with a new way to make players wish they'd taken up tennis instead.

And if you can't see the fun in that, well, you're Vijay Singh. Right now, there are better things to be.

There are also worse. After all, he said what he said, he meant it when he said it, and he's still showing up. That counts for something, too.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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