Originally created 07/09/03

Skins Game in Annika's future?



NORTH PLAINS, Ore. -- Annika Sorenstam is done playing on the PGA Tour, but Colonial might not be her last chance to play against the men.

Organizers of the Skins Game are trying to decide whether to offer Sorenstam a sponsor's exemption into the original silly-season event, which is moving to the Trilogy at La Quinta in the California desert. It will be played Nov. 29-30.

"I haven't had any talks about it, but I would do a special event, something like that," Sorenstam said last week at Pumpkin Ridge.

Offered an exemption, would she say yes?

"I would be flattered," Sorenstam said. "I would consider it, because it's not a PGA event, and I won't do another PGA event. But a special event like this is different."

Mark O'Meara is the defending champion.

Tiger Woods has a contract with Disney-owned ABC Sports to play the occasional Skins Game, but he won't return this year. For one thing, it falls the week after the Presidents Cup in South Africa.

Mark Steinberg, Sorenstam's agent at IMG, confirmed the Skins Game was a possibility.

"It would not be inconsistent with what she has said about not playing another PGA Tour event," Steinberg said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Swede already is booked for one competition against the men - the Tiger Skins in Singapore on Nov. 12-14.

Retief Goosen is the defending champion, although it was not clear if he'll play. Steinberg said the Tiger Skins will feature three other men.

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IRISH BREAK: Mark O'Meara is headed for Ireland for his usual week of practice before the British Open. Jim Furyk also plans a few days of links golf on the Emerald Isle with his father.

Tiger Woods?

He's staying home.

For the first time in five years, Woods will prepare for the British Open by working on his swing in Florida. His home course at Isleworth is being rebuilt, but the range is open.

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HONORARY MEMBER: Olympia Fields asked Jim Furyk to come by the club for a reception last week when he was in town for the Western Open.

Little did he know what was in store - honorary membership at the course where he won the U.S. Open for his first major.

"I just wanted to go down and kind of have a cocktail, speak with the members," Furyk said Tuesday. "It was a wonderful gesture. It's always nice to go back to a place where you've played well. But then to receive an honorary membership and really see everyone come out like that was a lot of fun."

Will he ever put his membership to use? After all, the U.S. Open is booked through 2009, and it might be even longer before Olympia Fields gets another major.

"I do like Chicago, I just don't spend that much time there," Furyk said. "I would probably like to go in a little bit early before the event, or stay a little bit after, try to play some golf."

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NEAR AMATEUR: The only thing more surprising than 14 teenagers at the U.S. Women's Open was someone with a master's degree.

Hilary Lunke graduated early from Stanford and decided to enter the master's program, setting her mind on being a lifelong amateur. That changed when the USGA allowed players to go through tour school and keep their amateur status if they didn't make it.

"I thought, 'That's a free swing in the batter's box.' If make it, I can turn pro. If not, I'll go back to the original plan of being an amateur," Lunke said.

She was four shots away from being an amateur.

Lunke shot 6-over 294 to earn conditional status in October 2001, and since the LPGA Tour season didn't start until spring, she finished off her master's degree in sociology.

Despite playing only 10 tournaments last year, she was $7,198 short of earning her card by finishing in the top 125 on the money list. Her amateur status gone, the real pressure was returning to Q-school last year.

Those who aren't exempt have nowhere to play, because the Futures Tour has its own qualifying tournament - and it was the same week as her wedding.

"I had the pressure of knowing if I missed the cut at Q-school, I was out of golf for a year," Lunke said.

She made the cut by six strokes, then closed with a 70 to earn full status by two shots. Nine months later, she became the U.S. Women's Open champion.

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SOLHEIM WATCH: Kelly Robbins has played on five Solheim Cup teams and is unbeaten in singles with a 4-0-1 record. She was resigned to being left off this year's team that defends the cup in Sweden - until last week.

"I hadn't made a point all year," Robbins said, who was 15th in the Solheim Cup standings going into the U.S. Women's Open. "I didn't think last year was going to be my last one, but I needed to worry more about getting my game in order. This will help."

She tied for second and moved up to No. 8 in the standings, putting her in great shape to at least be a captain's pick.

Plus, the $272,004 she earned at Pumpkin Ridge - the largest check of her career - moved her up to 15th on the money list and earned her a spot in the $2.1 million Evian Masters later this month in France.

"This was a big bonus," Robbins said.

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DIVOTS: The USGA has proposed a new test to measure the limits for how far a golf ball travels. The test has been upgraded from the 1976 standard to include a swing speed of 109 mph and a titanium club instead of a wooden club. The coefficient of restitution is .82, which is .01 under the limit. ... Mhairi McKay was 9 under par for her first 35 holes at Pumpkin Ridge. She played the final 37 holes in 11 over par. ... Padraig Harrington didn't sound like the No. 9 player in the world last week at the European Open when he said, "I never expect to play well. I'm usually surprised when I do."

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STAT OF THE WEEK: For the first time since a playoff loss in 1992, Juli Inkster finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Women's Open without winning.

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FINAL WORD: "He told me it looks like a garden shovel." - Hilary Lunke, on her husband's first impression of her 11-wood.