The best women players joined Tiger Woods and David Duval in prime time on Monday and delivered an entertaining show – but hardly the kind of golf anyone expected from the foursome of major championship winners.
Woods and Annika Sorenstam rallied from 2–down with three holes to play and won the "Battle at Bighorn" against Duval and Karrie Webb in 19 holes.
Sorenstam made a 10–foot birdie putt on No 18 to continue the alternate–shot match, and the pair closed out the victory when Webb hit into a bunker and Duval missed a 12–foot par putt.
In a made–for–TV event that provided women's golf its largest audience ever, the outcome was more cause for relief than celebration.
Both teams shot 4–over 76, although the conditions were brutal with hot, blustery wind and brick–hard greens.
Woods and Sorenstam were each forced to hit a shot left–handed in the alternate–shot format. Duval and Webb squandered a 2–up lead with three holes to play. What looked at times like a husband–wife mixer at the club turned into a grind under the lights.
It finished under the lights, and there was some fear it wouldn't finish until morning.
When it was over, Woods and Sorenstam shared $1.2 million from the $1.7 million purse.
As with the previous two Monday Night Golf exhibitions, the only success that really matters will be the TV ratings that will be released later this week.
Woods vs. Duval got a 6.9 rating two years ago in the inaugural event, while Sergio Garcia's 1–up victory over Woods last year garnered a 7.6. Anything close to that will represent the largest audience to see women play golf.
"This is one of the biggest days in LPGA history, if not the biggest day, based on the number of eyeballs that are going to be on our product," LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said before the match.
Webb and Sorenstam headed for the airport for a charter flight to England for the Women's British Open, their final major of the season. They gave up two days of practice to give the LPGA an audience like never before.
Only time will tell if it pays off.
Duval and Webb seized control when Sorenstam's 25–foot birdie putt on No. 14 rolled off the green and onto the fairway. They went 2–up when Webb rifled a 3–iron into the green on the 528–yard 15th.
That was one of the last few good shots.
Needing a birdie on the 18th to send the match to extra holes, Sorenstam pushed her drive into the right rough. Webb followed with a tee shot into a bunker.
Woods saved the day with a wedge to 10 feet, and Sorenstam pumped her fist when her putt dropped to send the match to overtime.
Sorenstam again went into the rough, this time down the left side. Webb took out a 3–wood and again went into the bunker, only this time Duval caught too much sand and couldn't reach the green.
Woods hit a high wedge to 40 feet, and Sorenstam nursed the putt down to tap–in range. The final stroke belonged to Woods.
Give two thumbs up to the production.
The golf was another matter.
Woods hit what was believed to be his first left–handed shot in competition when Sorenstam's drive landed on the edge of a bunker and left him no other choice. On the next hole, Woods' returned the favor when his drive nestled in a desert bush, and Sorenstam was forced to whack it out left–handed.
The women didn't do themselves any favors in trying to shake the perception that they can't putt.
Webb hit a putt from the back fringe on No 2 that traveled 80 feet – no big deal, except that she was only 20 feet away when she started.
"The wind, the grain, the slope and Indio," Duval told her as they walked off the green, mentioning all the factors to keep in mind when putting on greens in the California desert. All putts tend to break toward Indio, the low spot in the Coachella Valley.
With the match all square on the 14th, Sorenstam played too much break in her 25–foot birdie attempt. "Bite, bite!" Woods yelled, to no avail. The ball trickled all the way off the green and down into the fairway.
Sorenstam had no excuse – she's a member at Bighorn.
The match had a few light moments, too.
Sorenstam's approach on No 1 sailed right of the green, down a hill into a patch of desert weeds so deep that Woods could barely find it. When Sorenstam saw the position she put him in, she bit her lip and offered an apologetic smile.
Duval hit a brilliant pitch over the slope to 4 feet on No 6, and when Webb holed the par putt, Sorenstam waited to hear that her 2–foot par putt was conceded.
Woods stared at Duval in mock disbelief, and Duval simply shrugged his shoulders. Right as Sorenstam was getting ready to hit the putt, Duval called out, "That's good."
Overall, the golf was less than spectacular. Then again, the conditions played a huge factor. The greens were hard and slick, and gusts up to 20 mph made it difficult to control the ball and judge the distance.
The players wore microphones, but it was hard to hear what they were saying – and it didn't sound like they were saying much, anyway. The best emotion came from Webb, who was in tears at end of a taped interview about her paralyzed coach in Australia.Reuse content