Sorenstam: Singh entitled to his opinion

Updated: May 15, 2003, 9:14 AM ET
Associated Press

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Annika Sorenstam doesn't think of herself as a pioneer, and she isn't listening to Vijay Singh.

Annika Sorenstam
Sorenstam

Whatever happens next week in the Colonial, the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event says she just wants to see how she stacks up against the world's best.

"I'm testing myself, but I'm not trying to prove anything to anybody,'' she said Wednesday. "That's not why I'm doing this. This is for myself. ... I'm coming to a stage that's totally different than I'm used to: tougher course, tougher competitors, all the attention. It's just going to be so different.''

Still, she's not resigned to playing a few rounds just to make her mark. She'll play to win, and she thinks she can.

"I believe so, if all the stars are lined up right,'' she said.

The people that say that, they don't know me. When I started playing golf ... I was afraid of the limelight. My game has changed, but me personally has not changed.
Annika Sorenstam reacts to those that think she wants publicity

On Sunday, Singh told The Associated Press that Sorenstam had no business playing in the event and said that on the odd chance he gets paired with her, he'd withdraw.

"I hope she misses the cut. Why? Because she doesn't belong out here,'' Singh told AP golf writer Doug Ferguson during an interview. "If I'm drawn with her, which I won't be, I won't play.''

Singh later said he was sorry if his comment came across as a personal attack.

Speaking on a conference call to promote next month's ShopRite LPGA Classic, Sorenstam said she was surprised at the stir created by her decision to play in the event.

"I think everybody's entitled to their own opinion, and obviously they speak their minds, and that's just where I want to leave it,'' she said. "I don't hold anything against anybody.

"I was maybe a little naive when I didn't think about this. I'm still amazed by all the attention, all the opinion, all the experts on my game. It's really funny. I never expected anything like this.''

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said critics of Sorenstam should "just relax.'' He also cautioned fans not to be "too hard'' on those who criticize her.

"It's going to be very interesting,'' he said, speaking in the Kansas City area. "She wants to see how her game stacks up against the best players in the world, males, and I accept that.

"I think if a player criticizes it, I don't think you all should be too hard on that player, like Vijay.''

In accepting the spot, Sorenstam will do what no woman has done since Babe Zaharias qualified for the 1945 Los Angeles Open.

Sorenstam won 13 times around the world last year, the most by a woman in nearly 40 years. She's the only woman to shoot 59.

She acknowledged she will be nervous playing the 7,080-yard, par-70 Colonial Country Club course, but said she hopes to make the cut or shoot par at least.

Tiger Woods thinks it would be terrific if Sorenstam makes the cut.

"I would think it was a fantastic performance -- no doubt about it,'' he said in Alveslohe, Germany, where he's playing in the PGA European Tour's Deutsche Bank-SAP Open.

In Irving, Texas, at the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson Championship, some players admitted they were eager to find out how she'll fare.

"Everyone is extremely curious to she how she's going to play, and we really don't know what's going to come of it,'' Ben Crane said. "I'll be very interested to see how she plays.''

David Toms, who won the Wachovia Championship last week, said: "I hope she plays well for ladies' golf and for her. But what is playing well? Nobody knows, nobody has anything to measure it against. I don't have any hard feeling toward her at all. She thinks she can do it, I guess we'll find out.''

He noted a lot of players get upset about sponsor's exemptions.

"Over the years, unrestricted sponsor's exemptions have been controversial because if you give them to someone who's really not trying to play the tour, arguably, they're taking a spot from an individual,'' he said.

"We've got a lot of good players. For a player to be frustrated is understandable. It's not anything new. Guys have complained a lot about tournaments (granting exemptions to) local pros.

"In this case, it's a woman. So it's a bigger deal. I think we should relax a little bit about this. Let it happen. Let her play golf. See how she plays. If you're a golfer and you love the game, it's pretty interesting stuff.''

Finchem said he wasn't worried that Sorenstam might be treated rudely by her male counterparts.

"They're going to treat her fine,'' he said. "These are all professionals. They have a great deal of respect for her. She'll be treated like anybody else in the field. There won't be any issues there.''

He also said he disagrees with those who say the women's tour might be hurt if its No. 1 player turns out to be entirely noncompetitive.

"The only downside would be if the top 15 LPGA players came to the men's tour and were successful,'' he said. "But that's not going to happen.''


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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