Women on Tour Becoming a Trend

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PGA TourAnnika Sorenstam was the first. By the end of the year, at least six women will have competed against the men on tours around the world.
 
The 2004 season might get under way with 14-year-old Michelle Wie at the Sony Open.
 
B.J. Wie, her father, said tournament sponsors are deciding this week whether to offer the teenage prodigy a sponsor's exemption at Waialaie Country Club in Honolulu, her hometown. She tried to Monday qualify last year, shot 73 and missed by seven strokes.
 
'She's got a good possibility, but not a final word yet,' the father said.
 
Is this a sign of more gender blending in golf? PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem doesn't think so.

'I don't see a trend involved here where a lot of tournaments are going to want women golfers to play,' Finchem said. 'I frankly don't think there are many that add much to a tournament at this point in time.'
 
In other words, the novelty might be wearing off.
 
Sorenstam sought a personal challenge and turned in a captivating performance at the Colonial, although she missed the cut by four shots. She has said repeatedly she won't play another PGA Tour event.
 
Suzy Whaley was the only woman to qualify, winning a PGA club pro sectional from a shorter set of tees to earn a spot in the Greater Hartford Open.
 
They were followed by Wie (Canadian and Nationwide tours), Laura Davies (Asian PGA Tour), Jan Stephenson (Champions Tour) and Se Ri Pak (Korean PGA Tour).
 
Finchem says Wie still grabs attention because of her youth and power.
 
'The question on everyone's mind is how far can this young gal go?' he said.
 
Still, he said most PGA Tour events are looking for players who have a future on the PGA Tour or past champions hoping to regain their form.
 
'I don't see a big shift in the usage because of what happened,' he said.
 
Meantime, B.J. Wie said in the event his daughter doesn't get an exemption to the Sony Open, she might try to Monday qualify again.
 
'It's a $400 entry fee,' he said. 'But that's still cheaper than flying to the mainland.'
 

OTHER AWARDS
The PGA Tour's other two awards might not be that difficult to figure out.
 
Ben Curtis is a lock for rookie of the year.
 
A year ago, Jonathan Byrd won the award because he was the only rookie to win a tournament. The 26-year-old Curtis happened to win a major - the first one he played, no less.
 
As for comeback player of the year?
 
Fred Couples would seem to be the logical choice. He overcame back problems to win the Houston Open, his first victory in five years, and he finished 34th on the money list.
 
Also making a strong case is Tommy Armour III, who started the year on conditional status and won the Texas Open by setting the 72-hole scoring record at 26-under 254.
 
SORENSTAM SKINS
The Skins Game won't be using a back tee on the 415-yard 14th hole at Trilogy Golf Club, and ESPN general manager Chuck Gerber offered one good reason: Annika Sorenstam.
 
The 33-year-old Swede will be the first woman to compete in the Thanksgiving weekend exhibition. The course, used for the first time in this event, will be about 7,100 yards and is a par 72.
 
'We're not using it because I wanted to limit the number of times that Annika had a fairway wood in her hands to make the second shot,' Gerber said in a conference call last week. 'I think that's necessarily fair.'
 
Sorenstam played Colonial at 7,080. In her opening round of 1-over 71, she hit 4-iron twice and a 7-wood into three of the par 4s. She also hit a 4-wood on a par 3.
 
'When you put Annika on a golf course that is 7,100 yards, she's at a disadvantage of having to play a long iron or a fairway wood into every par 4,' Gerber said. 'I think it's asking too much of any golfer to take a fairway wood and put it within 8 or 10 feet of the hole every time.'
 
Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Mark O'Meara will be hitting from the same tees.
 
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
Until this year, John Daly was the only player to average over 300 yards per drive on the PGA Tour. Not only did Hank Kuehne end Daly's eight-year reign as the leader in driving distance, he had plenty of company in the '300 club.'
 
Kuehne finished at 321.4 yards and was one of nine players to average over 300 yards a drive.
 
Fred Funk won the driving accuracy category for the fourth time in five years, although his average (77.9 percent of fairways hit) was his lowest during that stretch. Joe Durant hit the most greens in regulation at 72.9 percent.
 
The putting leader was John Huston at 1.713, narrowly beating out Justin Leonard.
 
Leonard was No. 1 last week, but he slipped just enough after having to spend four days on the county-sized putting surfaces at Champions Golf Club at the Tour Championship.
 
Tiger Woods won the all-around ranking, a combination of every category.
 
DIVOTS
Arnold Palmer made it official: The King introduced Kit Gawthrop as his fiancee during a press conference last week to announce MasterCard as the presenting sponsor of the Bay Hill Invitational. They did not mention a wedding date. ... Tiger Woods finished 17 shots behind Chad Campbell at the Tour Championship, the most he has trailed a winner since he was 17 shots behind Fred Couples in the 1998 Memorial. ... David Duval finally slipped out of the top 200 in the world ranking. At No. 204, he is only two spots ahead of Nationwide Tour player of the year Zach Johnson. ... Fredrik Jacobson, who has taken over as the top Swede in golf, signed a management deal with IMG. ... Nick Faldo withdrew from the Franklin Templeton Shootout this week because of a back injury. He was replaced by Matt Kuchar, whose partner will be Fred Funk. ... Des Smyth and Vicente Fernandez fill out the Rest of the World team in the UBS Cup next weekend at Sea Island.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Tour Championship has been played 17 years without a repeat winner, the longest any event on the PGA Tour schedule has gone before someone won it twice.
 
FINAL WORD
'It worked for Hogan. It's definitely working for me.' - Vijay Singh, on the long hours he spends hitting balls.
 
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