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Now Its All Up to Her

FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Today Show. The Tonight Show. 60 Minutes.
Annika Sorenstam has sat for all of them.
She is about to become the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event since 1945 - which, by way of historical perspective, is the last time the Chicago Cubs won a National League pennant - and she has taken golf into the mainstream.
People at offices all over the country will be talking about Annika Sorenstam this week while standing around the water cooler. People who know nothing about golf. People who know nothing about women. People who know nothing about water coolers.
Tongues will be wagging and clucking and tasking. And everybody will have an opinion.
Sorenstam, the best player in women's golf, will shoot 79 76 155 and miss the 36 hole cut by more than 10 shots. Does that mean I will be rooting for her to post those numbers? Of course not. I root for the story. The best story will be if she shoots 69 66 and leads the thing after 36 holes. But I also root for athletes who work hard to succeed. And no one in women's golf has worked harder at that than Sorenstam. So I hope my prediction is wrong.
(We interrupt this column for the question of the week: Would Vijay Singh, winner of Sunday's EDS Byron Nelson Classic, have withdrawn from The Bank of American Colonial if Sorenstam wasn't in the field? Answer: I think not. But congratulations, Vijay, and know this: Annika was not hoping you would miss the 36 hole cut in Dallas. Nor is there any truth to the rumor that she, too, will withdraw this week and stalk you with a sponsor's exemption at The Memorial Tournament next week.)
Meanwhile back in Fort Worth, Annika is about to make women's sports history. In 1970 Diane Crump became the first woman to ride a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Janet Guthrie became the first women to drive a race car in the Indy 500 in 1977. Sorenstam won't be the first woman on the PGA Tour. But she will be the most watched.
And she will be playing on a golf course that can be evil. Veteran Tour pro Mike Hulbert says Colonial is like playing in a hair dryer, 'hot, windy and tricky.'
The downside to all of this, no matter what anybody says, is the damage it will do to the LPGA if Annika cards two big numbers. The public that doesn't know how good the world's best women are will take great delight in stereotyping. And it will hurt the credibility of Sorenstam's Tour.
But the only real loser here can be Sorenstam. And it will have much more to do with how she comports herself than how she shoots. Ditka or Lombardi or Wooden or one of those icons once said the only failures in life are people who stop trying.
If that sounds like a first-rate jockspeak cliche, it's because it is. But it also happens to be true. If Annika Sorenstam tries her hardest on every last lovin' shot, she will never have to look back. The golf course, the field, the pressure and the competition will test her. But as long as she tries on every shot she will not fail.
Meanwhile my favorite quote on all of this comes from Jonathan Byrd, last year's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. 'I'm not threatened by her,' Byrd said. 'I don't care if it's an old man, woman, or a little kid out there beating me. More power to her. I hope she plays well.'
He is not alone.
Related Links:
  • ''Everything Annika'' Feature Page
  • Full Coverage of the Bank of America Colonial