Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Report: Sorenstam headed to Colonial

Golf notebook

TRUMBULL, Conn. - Annika Sorenstam could be offered an exemption to the Colonial and become the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour, a magazine reported Monday.

Golf World cited unnamed sources as saying Bank of America, in its first year as the title sponsor, wants Sorenstam to play. The Colonial is May 22-25 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The 32-year-old Swede, who last year won 13 times around the world and shattered the LPGA Tour scoring average, said two weeks ago that she would love to compete against the men if offered an exemption.

"I have nothing to lose," Sorenstam said. "It would be a challenge."

Her only stipulation was to play on a course where she would not be at a huge disadvantage off the tee. Colonial is only 7,080 yards, although it plays to a par 70.

Messages left for Sorenstam's agent and her husband by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

Tournament director Dee Finley suggested last week that Colonial had no room for Sorenstam because it had several players interested in their exemptions and "we're here to provide a place to play for PGA Tour players."

"It would be fun to see her play, but I'm afraid that will not be possible for Colonial this year," Finley said at the time.

On Monday, Finley told Golf World that talks had reached an advanced stage.

The last woman to play a PGA Tour event was Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Los Angeles Open. Zaharias not only qualified for the tournament, she made the 36-hole cut until a 79 eliminated her for the final round.

If Sorenstam were to play Colonial, she would steal the spotlight from Connecticut club pro Suzy Whaley, who has said she will play in the Greater Hartford Open in July.

Whaley qualified by winning a PGA of America sectional tournament, even though she was allowed to compete from a shorter set of tees.

Zoeller says PGA Tour apologized for disqualification

MIAMI - Fuzzy Zoeller, disqualified from a Champions Tour event for trying to conduct an instruction tip on the golf course, says commissioner Tim Finchem called to apologize.

"The commissioner called me and said, 'Accept my apology. We screwed up.' That was good enough for me," Zoeller said Monday at a charity breakfast in South Florida.

Zoeller was disqualified Friday for hitting practice shots on the Crandon Park Golf Course after his first-round 73 at the Royal Caribbean Classic.

Zoeller agreed to give a lesson to a local television reporter, and because the practice range was full, decided to use the vacant sixth tee. Such lessons are part of the tour's new fan-friendly initiatives, and Zoeller figured it was OK.

"Everybody in their right mind who plays competitive golf knows you can't go back out on the golf course," Zoeller said. "It was set up through the Champions Tour, not Fuzzy Zoeller. I didn't do this. But one of our rules officials came out and started screaming and yelling and acting like I was a criminal. I thought everybody knew about it because it was our people that lined it up."

As soon as Zoeller hit his first demonstration shot, officials said he was in violation of Rule 7-1-b, which prohibits practicing on the tournament course between rounds.

Tour spokesman Bob Combs said miscommunication was partly to blame. He said the tournament staff approved of Zoeller going to the sixth tee, but the camera crew suggested without authority that he hit a shot.

The tour plans to send letters to every player in the field this week in Naples to clarify that under no circumstances are they to use the golf course for instructional tips once the tournament has started.

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