Sorenstam Has More Brains Than Brawn

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People who think winning a golf tournament without muscles is tough should remember: It's much tougher winning one without brains.
 
Fortunately, that second part won't be a problem for Annika Sorenstam.
 
She might need to use more club to cover the same distances as the men she'll face at Colonial come May, but Sorenstam will be every bit their equal when it comes to thinking her way around the course.
 
In fact, judging by the planning she and her camp have done already, maybe better.
 
Sorenstam has accepted one of the dozen sponsors' exemptions into the tradition-laden tournament. And why not? If this is really about the best female golfer in the world measuring her game against men, she couldn't have picked a better spot.
 
At 7,080 yards, Colonial is among a handful of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour. But the news gets even better. It's covered by Bermuda grass rather than bent, so the ball will run farther down the fairways and the rough will be shorter and less snarly in May, even if it rains. There are plenty of doglegs, too, which means most of the men will hit irons off a number of the tees. Better still, plenty of the greens are open in front, giving the short hitter a chance to roll approach shots to the flag instead of always having to airmail them.
 
That explains, in part, why Golf World magazine reported that much of the resistance to Sorenstam playing at Colonial was the fear of some members that the course would become known as ``one easy enough for a girl to play.'' Not that there's much chance of that happening.
 
``The real battle for Annika will be getting over the hoopla,'' Carol Mann said over the phone Tuesday, and she should know. ``It's going to be double, maybe triple anything she's ever seen.''
 
Mann, a Hall of Fame golfer, played a disastrous one-on-one match against flamboyant Doug Sanders some 30 years ago. She knows the pressure can be suffocating.
 
``How will she get into a mind-set to perform? That's a question she can't answer until she experiences it,'' Mann added. ``There was some of that at the end of the 'Battle of Bighorn.' But this will be beyond that.''
 
Sorenstam was paired with Tiger Woods in a made-for-TV match against David Duval and fellow LPGA star Karrie Webb two years ago. The result was bad golf and the worst TV ratings in the three previous years the exhibition matches had been staged. The reason why, as well as the decision to replace the women last year with seniors Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, became apparent on the 18th tee when neither could reach the 18th fairway with their drivers in regulation or the playoff.
 
Even with the 20 extra yards Sorenstam has added to her tee shots in recent years, she still barely cracks the top 200 in driving distance on the PGA Tour. But that won't be her problem. Colonial will scrub much of the distance advantage off the men's games and besides, Sorenstam might be the most accurate player on any tour. She hits three of every four fairways, on average, and four of every five greens.
 
Still, you have to ask whether this is a good idea. When teaching pro and part-time LPGA member Suzy Whaley qualified for the Greater Hartford Open last fall and later announced she would use the invitation, Sorenstam was part of the chorus pushing for leniency.
 
``I hope people are educated enough to know she's a teacher,'' Sorenstam said. ``She's not teeing it up on tour out here every week.''
 
But Sorenstam won't get any slack for the very same reason. She's clearly the best the women have to offer, and the hottest golfer on the planet ' Woods included. She won 24 of her 42 career victories since 1999, and last year posted the winningest year any golfer has put up in four decades.
 
So it won't matter that she can't drive the ball as far, doesn't have as refined a short game because she hits so many greens on the LPGA Tour, or still isn't automatic over 5-foot putts because her usual competition has wilted long before that.
 
``I'd like to think we've grown up enough to where people would be forgiving, but I think there's going to be a real split, especially if she misses the cut,'' Mann said. ``Some people will be compassionate and some will be cruel.
 
``Annika can handle herself, but here's what really scares me,'' she added. ``Because of this, maybe sooner rather than later now, some guy is going to attempt to play on the women's tour.''
 
When someone suggested the embarrassment factor would keep that from happening, Mann said, ``I hope you're right. I just wouldn't bet against it.''
 
Maybe she's right. Maybe there are still a few men out there willing to test the theory that brains are still more important in golf than brawn.