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Peer Group
John Garrity
May 12, 1997
Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb are alone together atop the LPGA tour, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to tear into each other
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May 12, 1997

Peer Group

Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb are alone together atop the LPGA tour, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to tear into each other

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TOP 5/TOP 10










11th (254.0)

16th (250.3)

All statistics: 1997, through Sunday

O.K., Folks, you asked for it. Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, eyeball-to-eyeball, nose-to-nose (Stop fidgeting, Karrie), simmering with hatred (Lose the giggle, Annika), breathing fire, hungry for confrontation (Karrie? Karrie! Look at Annika, please!), yearning to stand alone on the ramparts of women's golf (No, Annika, working on your laptop computer won't make it a better photo).... Uh, take five, girls.

(Whispering) Listen, the other idea you had, the picture with the boxing gloves? That might be better. Especially if one of them, Annika or Karrie, accidentally pops the other on the nose. Because it's going to take a busted capillary to get these two to buy the idea that they're rivals. I'm like, "Annika, you're Number 1 on the LPGA money list and Karrie's Number 2, and last year Karrie won four tournaments and was the leading money winner and rookie of the year, but you won three tournaments and your second straight U.S. Women's Open, and she's 22 and you're only 26, so what do you think of the rivalry?" And she says, "I just see us as two young players. I enjoy playing with her a lot."

So I go, "Karrie, last year you became the first LPGA player to win $1 million in one season and people compared you with Tiger Woods, but last year Annika won her second consecutive Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, and this year she won three tournaments before you won one, and besides, as an Australian you must resent all those years of Swedish oppression." And she says, "I think the media has hyped this as more than it really is."

(Loudly) Relax, girls. Just be a minute!

(Whispering) Here's the thing. Everyone wants to see a dominant player emerge on the LPGA tour—a headline grabber the way Nancy Lopez was when she won five straight tournaments in 1978. But if the LPGA can't have its own Tiger, it will settle for a good old-time rivalry like Jack Nicklaus-Arnold Palmer or Ben Hogan-Byron Nelson. I was talking to David Esch, Annika's husband, and he said a Sorenstam-Webb rivalry would be fun and "great for the LPGA." But then he said, "Annika doesn't pay too much attention to it. It's the training she got in Sweden. She was taught to play the golf course, not some individual." I mean, Sorenstam's got this laptop with all her statistics back to '89. She doesn't get excited unless the scoring-average cell in her database changes from 70.50 to 70.47.

You think maybe women golfers don't have rivalries? I was talking to Michelle McGann, who's only 27 herself and has won six tournaments in two years, and she said, "That's just a woman's personality—a little more sincere, a little more caring." She told me about a round she played with Webb a few weeks ago near Myrtle Beach, S.C. McGann made an eagle at the 10th, and then Webb made six birdies in a row to win the tournament. And McGann was like, "Hey, congratulations. You're a great player." A guy would've poured sand in Webb's gas tank.

Anyway, I asked McGann about LPGA rivalries, and she was stumped. She said, "I can't really think of any. It just seems like there are more than two people butting heads all the time."

The library's not much help. Rhonda Glenn's The Illustrated History of Women's Golf says that Glenna Collet and Joyce Wethered "carried on a great and courteous rivalry for much of the 1920s." Liz Kahn's The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version points out that Patty Berg and Betty Hicks weren't always on speaking terms, and Louise Suggs disliked Babe Zaharias, and that when Alice Bauer divorced her husband, Robert Hagge, her sister Marlene immediately married him. But all those players denied they were rivals.

The only solid-gold, kick-the-tires rivalry—albeit one lacking personal animosity—that I dug up was the one between the amateurs JoAnne Gunderson and Anne Quast in the 1950s and '60s. These two friends from the state of Washington hooked up numerous times in regional and national events, with the exuberant, long-hitting Gunderson winning only slightly more often than the fast-talking, high-strung Quast. But that rivalry evaporated when Gunderson, now known as JoAnne (Big Momma) Carner, turned pro in '70. Quast, who upon marrying for the third time became Anne Sander, won numerous mid-amateur and senior amateur titles in the '80s.

Obviously, chemistry has a lot to do with rivalries. Palmer and Gary Player, two men of demonstrable competitiveness, were a riveting attraction when they went at it hammer and tongs in the 1960s. On the other hand Fred Couples and Davis Love III, two less fiery guys, couldn't raise a spark with a grinding wheel in the early '90s. Sorenstam and Webb are like that—celebrity shy. At practice the other day in

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