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Is Vijays Song Out of Tune

Controversy and golf have never been especially comfortable with each other. The latest contretemps involves Vijays Singh's opinion, as reported by the Associated Press, that Annika Sorenstam, a woman, has no place in the all-male field at the Bank of America Colonial next week in Texas.
A firestorm has ensued. There is something burning and it's not just Singh's credibility. An unpleasant odor has filled the air.
This, too, shall pass. But not before we examine the apparent hypocrisy of Singh's reported position. We should defend to the death Singh's right to have an opinion on Sorenstam's place in Fort Worth. It is also his right to threaten to withdraw if he gets paired with her.
It is even his right to claim that Associated Press reporter Doug Ferguson misquoted him on all of this. In fact, that's what Singh did Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Golf Channel's Steve Sands. It should also be noted here that Ferguson's reputation as a reporter of high integrity has never before been publicly questioned.
It is everybody else's right to have an opinion about Singh's opinion. And a lot of people think his opinion stinks. Which is why this whole thing is so smelly at the moment.
A quick check of history reminds us that many years ago Vijay Singh received golf's ultimate reprieve. There was more than a whiff of a cheating scandal involving his alleged creative use of a pencil on a scorecard. He served his time in golf purgatory. He got a second chance. And he parlayed that opportunity into greatness. He has won two major championships and is the seventh-ranked player in the world. A bad beginning had a happy ending.
'Vijay Singh is a fine man,' Bank of America Colonial tournament chairman Dee Finley chose to say Tuesday night before declining to comment on Singh's reported Sunday criticism of Sorenstam's presence in Finley's field.
What's so hard to understand is why Singh won't concede Sorenstam's right to have a FIRST chance. Singh, more than anybody, should respect opportunities when they are presented. Instead, Ferguson reported that Singh said this Sunday after finishing his final round at the Wachovia Championship in North Carolina:
'I hope she misses the cut (at the Bank of America Colonial). Why? Because she doesn't belong out here.' Singh repeated these sentiments to Sands Tuesday, saying that Sorenstam was wrongly taking the rightful place of a male competitor in the Bank of America Colonial field.
Most people in golf, including David Duval and tour policy board member Olin Browne, believe Sorenstam very much belongs in the field next week. They believe she belongs because she is the best woman golfer on the planet; because she was invited; because she hasn't broken any rules and because she has worked extremely hard to separate herself from the rest of the women in golf.
The latter especially is something the grinder in Singh should understand better than most. Anyway, Singh should be forewarned that the Golf Gods don't take kindly to expressions of antipathy. Saying you hope a player misses the cut is inviting bad golfing karma, not to mention that it is just plain poor sportsmanship. And threatening to withdraw if you are paired with her, well
Singh is going to take a beating over all of this in the media. This will not surprise him. For a variety of reasons, he is not a popular figure among many print reporters. And the knives are always sharpened when it comes to criticizing him. Some of those reasons for this are fair. Some of them are not.
At the very least you must give Singh a certain amount of credit for having the nerve to say what at a few of his brethren aren't brave and/or dumb enough to say: golf and genders shouldn't mix at the highest level.
In his recently released book on caddying, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly writes about what it was like for LPGA player Jill McGill to play on the boys' golf team in high school.
'The guys on my team liked me,' McGill told Reilly. 'But the guys on the opposing team hated it. It was always, 'Who has to play the girl?' And I'd usually beat them and the guy would have to hear it from his buddies the rest of the week.' '
We have heard from Vijay Singh this week. And the odor is still in the air.
Related Links:
  • ''Everything Annika'' Feature Page
  • Full Coverage of the Bank of America Colonial