Annika Primed to Give Receive Golf Lessons


What should we be watching for when Annika Sorenstam plays against the men this weekend? Will she drive the ball like Adam Scott? Putt like Tiger Woods? Work the ball like Fred Couples?
No, no and no. She will play like Annika Sorenstam ' period. She hopes that will be good enough to win a skin or two at the Merrill Lynch Skins Game. The sneaking suspicion if that she will do much better than that.
She was good enough to crank out 10 wins around the world this year. She has played with the men several times before ' at Colonial, at the Skins last year, in an interclub match in Orlando earlier this year, at the ADT Skills Challenge last Monday. She has practiced with Woods in Orlando on occasion. So the concept is definitely not foreign to her.
What she says she wants to do is keep comparing her game with the men ' who are, by their biological differences alone, the biggest bombers in the world. And the one area where brute strength is not required is in the short game ' chips, pitches, little lobs around the green, blasting from the bunkers.
I mean, I cannot tell you how many shots I have saved the last year and a half thanks to my practice with the guys and at Colonial, Sorenstam said.
I am chipping very differently, using a lob wedge now around the greens a lot more than I used to. I can be more aggressive. I have improved my chipping so much and I think that is one of the keys or the strength this year to my success is my chipping. I am making up-and-downs. My bunker game has improved to do it more and more, I realize that I am really getting better just by watching them and learning.'
That is one of the real thrills of watching the Skins - watching Annika compete against the men. Last year she eagled a par-5 when she blasted out of a bunker into the hole. Golf is truly one sport where the two sexes can be competitive.
I think it is a great game where we can do both, she said.
The power and the strength are an issue. If we could have a driving competition, it would not be something that I would want to do, but for me, to learn from the guys and their different ways, bottom line, it is the same game. You play from A to B. I might not be able to hit 300 yards, but I want to see how they do it and try to maximize my ability.
It is somewhat ironic that men have almost always performed the touch skills better than women. As difficult as it is comparing PGA Tour statistics with the LPGA, still the leading male putter, Brian Gay, averaged 27.96 per round while the LPGAs best, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, averaged 28.75. The courses and conditions on the two tours are far different, of course, but this disparity probably illustrates that, as children, boys are introduced to sports earlier than girls.
Women are commonly believed to be more adept at such small-muscle skills, given that all other conditions are equal. Annika believes that small-muscle excellence such as chipping the ball is an area where she can improve, especially after watching the men work at it.
Strength does play a part of it, but they can get the ball up and near really quickly, she said. They can get the ball to stop quickly. Just to see how they work the ball, that type of stuff - that is what I think I am lacking in my game. Therefore I want to see somebody who is very good at it and hopefully I can pick up pointers and be able to do it.
Watch the Skins Game this weekend and pick out instances where Annika can learn from the men. And at the same time, see where the men can learn from Annika. After all, she won 10 times this year ' she has plenty to teach the gents. And, most of all, you the viewer are bound to learn a lot.
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