Backspin: Annika challenges Tiger to match

Backspin: Annika challenges Tiger to match


While she was playing, Annika Sorenstam let her sticks do the talking, but now that she’s “stepped away” from the game, she’s running her mouth, sort of. Appearing as a guest speaker at the SMU Athletic Forum in Dallas last Thursday, Sorenstam challenged her buddy Tiger Woods to a one-on-one, handicap-adjusted, televised showdown.

“If it’s for a good cause, a good charity and it’s good for golf, then I’m in,” she said. “I haven’t been playing much and he’s probably in peak shape, so I would need a couple of months to get ready. Then I’d love to play him.”

But she didn’t leave it at that, saying that Woods has dodged her challenges before, including one for a pull-up throwdown. So far, Woods has not responded, but since both players are represented by IMG’s Mark Steinberg, if there’s any real interest in a match, it should be easy to set up.

Other than that, Sorenstam’s enjoying her retirement, although she hasn’t totally gotten away from the game. “I’m surprised,” she said, “at how much I’ve watched on TV.”

Think you can name the best player in women’s golf? You probably want to pick Lorena Ochoa, No. 1 in the world and winner of 22 LPGA events since the start of the 2006 season. But Ochoa has won only twice since last May. Dating back to September’s Bell Micro Classic, Angela Stanford has played nine times, won three and has yet to finish outside the top seven.

Then there’s Jiyai Shin, a 20-year-old rookie from South Korea who got her first official LPGA win at last week’s HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore (11-under 277). Last year, as a nonmember, Shin played 10 LPGA events, won three, including a major (the British Open) and the season-ending Tour Championship, and had three other top 10s. When she wasn’t moonlighting among Carolyn Bivens’s gals, Shin played 15 events on the Korean LPGA and never finished out of the top eight. She won seven of those 15 starts and became the first person to win that tour’s grand slam, which is made up of three “majors.” She also set the KLPGA’s career earnings record (achieved in only 33 starts) and its lowest season scoring average (69.72 in ’06). Shin, now ranked fourth in the world, shot back-to-back 66s in Singapore to come from behind, a pattern that’s repeated itself so often in Korea that her nickname there is Queen of the Final Round.

After tying for sixth, Ochoa was asked about Shin. She said, “We need to keep an eye on her.” Want to take another run at who’s the best woman golfer in the world right now? Ochoa is still the smart answer, but you had to think about it, didn’t you?

After missing the Masters last year for the first time since 1990, Davis Love III looks as if he’ll make it back down Magnolia Lane. His 13th-place finish at the Honda Classic moved him to 50th in the World Ranking and got him into this week’s WGC event, which guarantees him ranking points. If he can hang on to those points through the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he’ll be in at Augusta.