Here’s what Operation Golf War or the “Annika Sorenstam Open” was really about.
First, it was a marketing coup. The Bank of America Colonial, which typically doesn’t excite the national media, was off the charts with coverage. More than 600 reporters and the MetLife blimp hovered over and probed the event’s main attraction: Annika Sorenstam. Galleries engulfed her. Sponsors could not have been giddier had Tiger been playing.
Moreover, Sorenstam will cash in with the sort of celebrity endorsements no performance on the LPGA tour could have produced.
Second, we need to remember that this was no Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” sham that should have been covered by Barbara Walters. This wasn’t some made-for-TV Fort Worthless burlesque. This was legit, and not just because Sorenstam is that good. While the Colonial is not the most demanding PGA course, this was a bona fide men’s tour event with a number of world class players such as Sergio Garcia.
Third, the game, remember, is golf. Players compete against themselves and the course. It’s not a contact sport, nor is it one where sheer power is a determinative element. At the Colonial, Sorenstam’s average driving distance was 268 yards. The two-round average for the guys was 279. If anything, it was, not surprisingly, her putting that let her down — not an average driving deficit of 11 yards.
Golf is more about eye-and-hand coordination, technique, touch, experience, consistency and mental toughness. These qualities are not the exclusive province of the Y-chromosome crowd. Saying Sorenstam couldn’t compete would be like saying Chi Chi Rodriguez was too slight to play golf for a living, which would have teed off a lot of guys.
While Sorenstam didn’t make the Colonial cut, she did prove she could compete. She shot a 5 over 145 for 36 holes. And there’s no telling how many strokes the saturation media coverage and attendant distractions were worth.
By the way, Sergio Garcia, unimpeded by a media crush, shot a 143 and didn’t make the cut either.
Just one of those days for Sergio.
Just one of those media cross-hairs experiences for Annika.