Singh says he'll withdraw if paired with Sorenstam

Updated: May 14, 2003, 8:49 AM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Vijay Singh made it clear how he feels about Annika Sorenstam playing on the PGA Tour.

What is she going to prove by playing? It's ridiculous. She's the best woman golfer in the world, and I want to emphasize 'woman.' We have our tour for men, and they have their tour. She's taking a spot from someone in the field.
-- Vijay Singh

He wants to her miss the cut next week in the Colonial.

And on the odd chance that he is paired with her, Singh says he won't play.

In the strongest comments yet about Sorenstam becoming the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour, Singh said the 32-year-old Swede has no business playing at the Colonial and should stick to her own tour.

''I hope she misses the cut,'' Singh said in an interview with The Associated Press after his runner-up finish at the Wachovia Championship. ''Why? Because she doesn't belong out here.''

Singh knows he won't be playing in the same group as Sorenstam when she becomes the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour. His name will be drawn from a pool of PGA Tour winners when the pairings are made.

Still, his comments might have set the tone for what could be a curious, contentious week at the fabled course in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sorenstam decided in February to accept a sponsor's exemption to the Colonial. The last woman to play on the PGA Tour was Babe Zaharias, who qualified for the 1945 Los Angeles Open. She made the 36-hole cut, but was eliminated in the third round with a 69.

The line out of Las Vegas is Sorenstam posting a two-day score of 153.

What she shoots isn't what bothers Singh.

''What is she going to prove by playing? It's ridiculous,'' said Singh, a two-time major champion who ranks No. 7 in the world. ''She's the best woman golfer in the world, and I want to emphasize 'woman.' We have our tour for men, and they have their tour. She's taking a spot from someone in the field.''

The Colonial is an invitational with a limited field. Sorenstam received one of eight sponsor's exemptions.

Singh isn't alone in his criticism.

Nick Price, the defending champion at Colonial, has said Sorenstam's presence ''reeks of publicity.'' He thinks she ought to qualify if she wants to prove herself at the highest level.

Scott Hoch, who once played with Sorenstam in a mixed-team tournament, said he wants to see her play well so people will realize ''how much separation there is between us and the ladies' tour.''

Still, most players have been cautious with their comments, not willing to predict a score and hopeful she plays well so it doesn't reflect poorly on the LPGA Tour.

Singh speaks from experience.

In 1998, he played in an unofficial event called the ''Super Tour'' that matched the scorecards of nine professionals after playing 18 holes a day in four Asian cities. Laura Davies was invited to play, and finished 39 strokes behind Singh.

''Laura Davies is a long-ball hitter, but she still had to hit good irons,'' Singh said. ''It's just different for ladies to play on the men's tour. It's like getting the Williams sisters to play against a man, and they're far better athletes than she (Sorenstam) is.''

Sorenstam has become significantly stronger in the last two years as she has taken over women's golf. She won 13 times around the world last year, the most by a woman in nearly 40 years, and two years ago became the first woman to shoot 59.

She was returning from Japan on Monday, where she won the Nichirei Cup by nine shots, and was not available for comment.

Sorenstam has been playing from the back tees to gear up for the Colonial, including a round with Tiger Woods in which she is said to have finished 10 strokes behind.

''Some people don't believe she should be out here -- golfers and men in general,'' Hoch said. ''Most guys hope she plays well, and what comes out of this is that she realizes she can't compete against the men.''

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press