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LPGA takes giant leap in prime-time opportunity

July 31, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

PALM DESERT — Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam may have been the winners of the third annual Battle at Bighorn prime time golf event here Monday, but ABC-TV may have been an even bigger winner if the ratings for the event reached what was hoped.

But the biggest winner of the event may be the LPGA.

The teams of Woods and Sorenstam against David Duval and Karrie Webb may not have played their best golf, but that Sorenstam and Webb demonstrated they could hang with two of golf's best players under the spotlight showed just how far the women's game has come.

"This was a great day for women's golf," said Sorenstam, a three-time LPGA money winner. "This opportunity to get out here and play with Tiger and David was wonderful."

Proving her ability to perform in clutch situations with the match on the line, Sorenstam nailed a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole to force a sudden-death playoff.

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"… the only putt I made," said Sorenstam.

"I think we showed that we can play the game," said Webb. "The fact that they chose us to play in this shows the respect for the LPGA."

This year's Battle at Bighorn was the first involving mixed teams. In 1999, Woods defeated Duval in the inaugural prime time event, but lost to Sergio Garcia last year at Bighorn.

But this year it was the two best players from the PGA and the two best from the LPGA battling each other in what will go down as a historic event.

"I would really like to see this format again," said Woods. "I thoroughly enjoyed the competition playing against each other. I really would like to do this again."

By winning the "Battle," Woods and Sorenstam split $1.2 million of a total purse of $1.7 million, with portions of the proceeds going to charity.

The only thing the players could point to as negative was their level of play, which was slightly diminished due to winds that peaked around 30 mph.

"It was really hard to get anything. I think the tough conditions we faced really affected how we played," said Duval. "The wind made things a lot more difficult. Overall, the conditions made it a really tough day."

But the foursome pressed on into the night and into the illuminating lights of the last three holes, demonstrating why they were chosen to compete in "Monday Night Golf."

"It was interesting to watch the different approaches to the holes," said Duval. "With the guys, we play more of a power game. And with (the women), they kind of go through the course."

While the actual golf may not have been up to par, considering what the players can do, viewers not familiar with the LPGA got their first long look at two of the world's most accomplished athletes in Sorenstam and Webb.

"I would definitely like to see this more often, where the men and women play in this format," said Sorenstam. "And hopefully this is the first of many more to come."

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