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Sorenstam has earned right to take on men

Annika Sorenstam is packing her bags for Fort Worth, Texas, in order to be there by next weekend.

This is not especially newsworthy information on its own: except for the fact that among those bags is her golf bag. Sorenstam is widely accepted as the best female golfer on the planet, but she intends to prove more by playing in the men’s MasterCard Colonial from May 22 to 25. A bold move criticized by many but well deserved.

Sorenstam will play from the men’s tees and will play the rounds just as though she was a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour, even though the card she carries has a distinguishing “L” on it to denote her membership to the LPGA. She is the first woman in almost 60 years to step up and say that she will play with the men.

When taking into account statistics that are earmarks of accuracy, such as the average of fairways and greens hit in tournaments, she should be able to compete. Her weakness at The Colonial will be her driving distance (in many cases she drives 20 yards shorter off the tee than the average PGA tour player), but aside from this, Sorenstam should hold her own against the elite golfers on the men’s tour.

It will be interesting to see how she fares compared to Scott Hoch and Vijay Singh, the biggest detractors to Annika Sorenstam’s participation in a PGA event.

Singh said he hopes Sorenstam “misses the cut” and that he “won’t play” if paired with her. Hoch is an appropriate choice for having said that he wants the event to show “how much separation there is between us and the ladies’ tour.” Singh has won eight tournaments as a pro (including The Masters), while Hoch has won four events. Sorenstam is just as accurate as these two established tour professionals. Such evidence of Sorenstam’s ability to hold her own can be found when comparing her greens-in-regulation average to those of Singh and Hoch. Both Hoch and Singh average 60 out of 72 greens while Sorenstam averages 57. She also hits 45 out of 72 fairways, while her nay-sayers only hit one more fairway than their female rival.

Sorenstam deserves her day to shine. She never said she would win the MasterCard Colonial. She only wants to prove she can contend with male players, which she can and should be able to. She deserves the chance to show that she can compete without being painted into a corner by her fellow professionals. Singh and Hoch are entitled to their opinions, but those opinions won’t keep a golfer who can compete at any level from doing so.