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Original Issue

Gender Clash Could Sorenstam and Webb keep up with the big boys?

Twenty-five years after Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs and a
month after tennis teen Serena Williams threatened to "take out"
Karsten Braasch at the Australian Open, the age-old question is
too delicious to dismiss: Are the best female athletes as
talented as their male counterparts?

Could Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, who ruled women's golf
by winning a combined nine tournaments in 1997, hold their own
on the PGA Tour? Let's start with sand saves, a stat that would
seem to be gender neutral. The '97 sand saves leader on Tour,
Jim Estes, got up and down 70% of the time while the leader on
the women's tour, Caroline McMillan, succeeded on just 57% of
her chances. Sorenstam and Webb were both under 50%. (The chart
below shows final '97 stats.)

The top LPGA players might be more accurate, however. The
women's leader in greens in regulation (Kelly Robbins at 78.7%)
outdid the men's leader (Tom Lehman, 72.7%). Webb's 75.1% GIR
rate helped her lead the women in scoring average--her tidy
70.00 strokes per round would have put her 16th among the men, a
showing that would have meant more than $1 million in PGA Tour

John Daly, chivalrous for once, has claimed Laura Davies "would
keep her card and probably win a couple of tournaments" on Tour.
If so, couldn't Sorenstam and Webb, who outperformed Davies by
the distance of a Daly drive in '97, do at least as well?

The best way to find out would be by experiment. No rules keep
the top LPGA players off the guys' turf; all the women lack is a
sponsor's exemption or two. If Casey can play with the best
golfers on Earth, perhaps Annika and Karrie deserve a shot too.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK READY, MEN? Sorenstam (left) and Webb are the LPGA's one-two punch. [Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb]


Laura Davies 258.4 70.86 4.04 68.8% 40.0%
Kelly Robbins 256.0 70.35 3.99 78.7 44.9
Annika Sorenstam 249.0 70.04 4.06 73.3 47.3
Karrie Webb 254.6 70.00 3.82 75.1 38.0
Brad Faxon 260.1 69.97 3.76 62.6 59.1
Phil Mickelson 284.1 69.83 3.95 67.5 55.6
Loren Roberts 251.4 69.88 3.67 65.1 62.2
Tiger Woods 294.8 69.10 4.25 70.3 44.0


WHILE THE 1997 NCAA players of the year, Marisa Baena, a junior
at Arizona, and Brad Elder, a Texas senior, have sat out with
injuries, these golfers have put together the best scoring
averages in the country so far in the 1997-98 season.

Player School Avg.

1. Rory Sabbatini Arizona 70.30
2. Edward Loar Okla. State 70.50
3. Tim Clark N.C . State 71.03
4. Charles Warren Clemson 71.11
5. Randy Leen Indiana 71.14
Chris Thompson Kansas 71.14

1. Jenny Chuasiriporn Duke 72.75
2. Alexander Armas Wake Forest 73.00
Hilary Homeyer Stanford 73.00
4. Reilley Rankin Georgia 73.08
5. Jennifer Hanna Furman 73.25


AFTER ONLY four full-field events on the PGA Tour, five Tour
regulars have already won more money than they did in the entire
1997 season.

John Huston $444,983 $293,143
Scott Simpson $383,963 $255,515
Bruce Lietzke $248,400 $205,520
Tommy Armour III $244,350 $80,686
Skip Kendall $361,550 $40,750