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Female Golfer's PGA Debut Stirs Controversy - 2003-05-14


Controversy is being stirred up the week before star Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam is set to compete in an official men's PGA golf tournament in the southern U.S. state of Texas.

World number one men's golfer Tiger Woods of the United States has thrown his support behind number one women's golfer Annika Sorenstam's entry in next week's Colonial golf tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sorenstam, 32, will become the first woman to play in a PGA event in 58 years. The last women to do it was Babe Zaharias, who qualified for the 1945 Los Angeles Open. Sorenstam did not have to qualify to play in the Colonial tournament, but received one of eight sponsor's exemptions. Last year, the Swede won 13 golf tournaments around the world, the most by a woman in nearly 40 years.

Tiger Woods said that Sorenstam should be given four or five starts on the men's tour. The top men's player said one tournament is not enough for the Swedish golfer to show what she can do.

Woods said that former Masters' champion Vijay Singh's remarks that he would pull out of the Colonial if paired with Sorenstam were unfortunate. Tiger said he had called Sorenstam and urged her to go out and compete.

Singh modified his comments this week, saying that he did not mean to say that he hoped Sorenstam failed to make the cut. The Fiji golfer said he meant that if he failed to make the cut, he hoped that Sorenstam also failed. "It was not an attack on Annika and if it was, it wasn't put that way," he said. "I actually said about not missing the cut was that if I missed the cut I'd rather see her miss the cut as well. I hope she missed the cut because I don't want to go back and know a woman beat me. But it didn't kind of, it wasn't written that way."

But Vijay Singh still believes Sorenstam should have had to earn her way into the field. "This is a man's tour, and there are guys out there who are trying to make a living," said Vijay Singh. "And so, you know, it's not a ladies' tour, and if she wants to play, she should - or any woman for that matter - if they want play the men's tour they should qualify and play like everybody else."

Former British Open and PGA Champion Nick Price of Zimbabwe has called Sorenstam's entry a publicity stunt. South African golfer Fulton Allem, who failed to make the halfway cut at the Colonial tournament last year, also questioned Annika Sorenstam's motivation. "The reality is she's a woman and she's playing with the men," he said. "Does that sound like something normal? I don't know. Maybe we live in a world that doesn't have too many normal things that go on. I don't know."

Most men on the PGA Tour have been cautious with their comments, not willing to predict a score and hopeful that Annika Sorenstam plays well so it does not reflect poorly on the women's (LPGA) golf tour.

Sorenstam will not be teeing it up against Tiger Woods at the Colonial in Texas. The men's number one is defending his title in Germany at the Tour Players' Championship of Europe.

World number one men's golfer Tiger Woods of the United States has thrown his support behind number one women's golfer Annika Sorenstam's entry in next week's Colonial golf tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.

Woods said that Sorenstam should be given four or five starts on the men's tour. The top men's player said one tournament is not enough for the Swedish golfer to show what she can do.

Woods said that former Masters' champion Vijay Singh's remarks that he would pull out of the Colonial if paired with Sorenstam were unfortunate. Tiger said he had called Sorenstam and urged her to go out and compete.

Singh modified his comments Tuesday, saying that he did not mean to say that he hoped Sorenstam failed to make the cut this week. The Fiji golfer said he meant that if he failed to make the cut, he hoped that Sorenstam also failed.

Former British Open and PGA Champion Nick Price of Zimbabwe has called Sorenstam's entry a publicity stunt. The Colonial is an invitational event with a limited field. Sorenstam was given one of eight sponsors' exemptions.

Tiger Woods will not be playing in the Colonial. He is in Germany for the Tour Players' Championship of Europe, where he will be going for a third consecutive title.

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