Who had the better season, Tiger or Annika?
Who was the better composer, Beethoven or Mozart? The better artist, Van Gogh or Picasso? The better writer, Shakespeare or Hemingway?
Of course, unlike the aforementioned virtuosos, these two artists are still adding to their already-legendary status. So, let's make it a more specific debate: Who had the better season, Woods or Sorenstam?
It's a tough question, but one that will remain unanswered no longer, as ESPN.com's Bob Harig and Golf World's Ron Sirak tackle the issue.
Let's face it, Annika Sorenstam had a great year. She won 10 times, which is eight more than anybody else on the LPGA Tour. She captured two major championships and won half of her starts. So it seems a bit silly to quibble.
Nonetheless, if you are asked to compare her year in 2005 to the one put up by Tiger Woods, it is difficult to go against Tiger. Yes, he won six times, which is four fewer than Annika. And his six victories in 21 starts is not as impressive as 10 wins in 20 starts.
But you have to look deeper. Woods won two major championships, as Annika did. But he was right there in the other two, while Annika was a nonfactor at the U.S. Women's Open and finished a distant tied for fifth at the Women's British Open. Meanwhile, Woods finished tied for second at the U.S. Open, 2 strokes back of Michael Campbell. And he was 2 back of Phil Mickelson at the PGA, tied for fourth. Only the 2000 season, when Woods won three straight majors, was better.
Then there are two other victories on Tiger's résumé, wins at the NEC Invitational and American Express Championship. No tournament outside of the majors on the LPGA schedule compares to the World Golf events. Yes, the LPGA is a "world tour," but the world events on the PGA Tour bring together the best fields of the year. Tiger won two of them.
His other two victories came at strong-field events. At the Buick Invitational, Ernie Els, Mickelson and Vijay Singh were all in the field. At the Ford Championship, Woods defeated Mickelson in a memorable Sunday duel and Singh finished third. These are the top players in the world going at it.
Meanwhile, Sorenstam won a tournament, the Samsung World Championship, that had just 20 players in the field. She won another, the Mizuno Classic, that was a 54-hole event and was filled with players from the Japan LPGA. And even the season-ending ADT Championship had just a 30-player field.
Again, not to diminish Sorenstam's accomplishment, but when compared to Tiger, she did not beat the same quality of fields. That could change as a new breed of young, fearless golfers join the ranks of the LPGA Tour. But for now, even winning 10 times is not as impressive as Woods winning six.
-- Bob Harig
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Annika Sorenstam is the most underappreciated athlete currently playing any sport.
Someday, people are going to look back on the level of domination she has maintained for the last five years and shake their heads in awe. It's the same way people now view the accomplishments of Sandy Koufax when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early- and mid-1960s. Few athletes in any sport have separated themselves from their competitors the way Sorenstam has.
Both Woods and Sorenstam won two major championships this year, but the Swede won 10 LPGA events to six PGA Tour events for Woods. She also won three events in a row (five over two years), and became the first player -- male or female -- to win the same event (the Mizuno Classic) in five consecutive years.
Sorenstam also captured the LPGA scoring title. In fact, the five lowest single-season scoring averages in LPGA history are the averages of Sorenstam in each of the last five years.
What makes Sorenstam's record this year even more remarkable is the fact that in February she filed for divorce after a very painful breakup as well as that she won as much as she did this year despite a summer swoon in which she slumped after seeing her Grand Slam quest end when she finished the second round of the U.S. Women's Open with three consecutive bogeys.
All it took to relight the fire under Sorenstam was to have a certain tall 16-year-old turn professional. In the statement tournament of the year, Sorenstam won the Samsung World Championship, in which Wie made her professional debut, by 8 strokes -- despite a double bogey on the last hole.
-- Ron Sirak
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