- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

PGA Tour pro John Riegger is openly challenging Annika Sorenstam to a one-on-one matchup and says he has backers who will put up $1million against the world’s best female golfer.

Riegger, who turns 40 later this month and has played on the PGA Tour on and off since 1992, said he is issuing the challenge in response to Sorenstam’s comment last week that she could finish in the top 100 on the money list if she played 30 tour events.

“I’ve been playing professional golf for 18 years. This is my seventh year on tour, and I’ve never finished in the top 125,” Riegger said yesterday after completing an even-par round of 71 at the Capital Open. “I think the general public has a misconception of how hard it is to finish in the top 125, let alone the top 100 on the money list.”

Riegger said he has challenged Sorenstam — who two weeks ago became the first woman in 58 years to compete in a PGA Tour event — to an 18-hole, stroke-play showdown at a place and a time of her choosing.

“She can play anywhere, anytime,” said Riegger, who has earned $1,098,811 in a career that includes one top-10 finish (an eighth-place tie at last year’s Honda Classic). “I’ve got more to lose than her. I mean, I’m supposed to beat her, I guess.”

The Las Vegas resident said a group of friends has offered to put up $1million for a match against Sorenstam, whom Riegger insists he has nothing against.

“I thought she played great at Colonial — I was pulling for her,” he said. “I don’t have anything against Annika, I don’t have anything against anybody. Whether it had been her or whether it had been some young kid who made the statement, I just don’t feel like that’s right. … I think it’s a little far-fetched.”

Sorenstam, in Wilmington, Del., for the LPGA Championship, could not be reached for comment.

Rough day for Lefty

Phil Mickelson’s round of 75 wasn’t a pretty sight, but given that Lefty was 4-over through his first six holes, it could have been a lot worse.

“I could have let the round really slide away and not even have a chance if I play well [today],” the world’s sixth-ranked player said. “But now I’m in a position where if I play well, I can at least get to the weekend and then try to do some damage.”

Starting on the back nine, Mickelson got off to a horrendous start. He hit three shots out of bounds over a four-hole span, one off the tee that was so far right it struck a house alongside the fairway.

“Those were my [only] three bad swings,” he said. “They just happened to be horrendous swings that cost me six shots. I’ve got to bring in the parameters of my mistakes, because right now my misses are pretty big.”

One of Mickelson’s worst misses of the day came on the par-4 seventh, when his tee shot landed on the wrong side of the cart path and up against a tree root. Unable to take a normal swing, Mickelson had no choice but to turn his pitching wedge around and hit right-handed from 161 yards out.

Beem, Begay in hunt

PGA Championship winner Rich Beem and four-time tour winner Notah Begay III shot rounds of 4-under 67 yesterday, one stroke behind leader Robert Gamez.

Beem had a bizarre starting back nine, posting three birdies and an eagle but bogeying three of the last five holes. He settled down on the front side, shooting seven pars to go with two birdies.

Begay had a far more consistent round — he was the only player on the course without a bogey, thanks in part to a nice sand save on the 18th.

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