Annika Funk Battle for Yards


The professed aim at the Merrill Lynch Skins Game is to arm-wrestle each other for skins. But to Fred Funk and Annika Sorenstam, theres a subplot at work that is decidedly more interesting: who can bash it further off the tee?
Fred and Annika join Fred Couples and Tiger Woods in the annual match which has been going on every Thanksgiving weekend since anybody can remember. But the REAL match will involve Annika and Funk. And its taken on a decidedly humorous twist ' who can launch it further?
Theyve taken to the topic with a great deal of good-natured ribbing. That's a big issue going into this Skins thing for me, said Fred, joining in the fun with a enthusiastic zest.
Funk has the statistical edge this year, though it can be argued he benefits from firmer, PGA Tour fairways. His average drive measures 270, which was 197th on the PGA Tour this year. Annika is pretty far behind, averaging only 264 this season. But she averaged 268.2 last year, so maybe she can reach back and get a little extra zip on it, a la yesteryear.
The two met last week at the ADT Skills Challenge and the ribbing began. Sorenstam is a proper lady ' she would never make an issue of something this male-demeaning. But Fred started it, and Annika hopped into the discussion with gusto.
He was actually the one that brought it up, Annika confirmed, and now Im just kind of going with it. I've had a little chat with Fred, and I gave him a hard time that I might outdrive him. I'm going to try and do the best I can. So I think it will be a fun one.
Actually, Tiger was the instigator in all this. Funk says the kidding has been going on nearly non-stop since Funk was confirmed in the four-person field.
Woods has been relentless with the barbs, says Funk. You know, he says, You better not let Annika outdrive you,said Fred.
I've already ASSUMED that she's going to outdrive me.
Annika took on a concerned look.
You've become a big hitter in the last few months, she told Fred. I'm getting a little worried. I've been pumping up, pumping some iron to have a chance. I'm not sure if I can do it. But obviously, I'm going to tee it off and hit it as hard as I can.
Funk recoiled in mock horror. I'm the underdog here, he snorted, not her!
But - that makes it so much fun! Im going to have a lot of fun with it.
All in a days work, you might say. Tiger and Couples will far outdistance them off the tee. But Annika and Fred will enjoy the laughs after they hit their drives.
Funk confesses that he is has become a major admirer of Sorenstam, as just about everyone in the universe has.
I just really love Annika, he said. I've become a huge fan of Annika after the way she handled herself at Colonial, and I just thought the world of her, and now that I've gotten to actually know her a little bit, I like her even more.
And I'm so excited about being in the event, and I think we can make this a little fun. We'll have a little side contest going, because I'm not the longest guy on our tour, and Annika is pretty powerful and it'll be a challenge. So we'll have a little side match off the tee as well.
Annika has age on her side ' she is 35, hes almost 50. And Annika probably works out a little more often ' and harder ' than Fred. So if that matters, give the edge to Annika. If pure statistics matter, give the edge to Funk.
Someone will win the most skins ' probably Woods or Couples. And someone will win the major share of the money. But its no question who will enjoy themselves the most. Annika or Fred ' who is the longer hitter? Makes you want to watch just to see who will come out front in that little subplot.
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