Should Men Play Ladies Events

Jean Van de Velde says he wants to qualify for the Women's British Open in 2006."I just don't understand it," Van de Velde said last Thursday at the Volvo Masters. "And if my application is not accepted I will definitely get advice and see how far it will go. I am making a point.

I'm not trying to take a sexist stance.".What's his point? Van de Velde's point is that, because the Royal and Ancient has changed its rules to allow women to qualify, men should be allowed to qualify for the Women's Open. Is that sexist? No. Does he have a point? Yes, it's just not a compelling one.

We don't even need to get into the heart of this---that if men are allowed to play in women's events, many women would not be able to compete. (This is not to say, by the way, that Van de Velde would dominate or fare well in the Women's Open.) Given all the gender talk in golf the last few years---Annika Sorenstam playing on the PGA Tour, criticism of her presence by some men on Tour, Martha Burke's protest of The Masters, a new wave of women golfers who can out drive some of the top men and may be able to outplay them in the coming years---Van de Velde's statement is no more compelling than the motivation behind picking sides in grade school kickball.My question for Van de Velde is: don't you always want to play the best? If Michelle Wie's prodigious drives and overall talent have her playing at a much higher level than exists on the LPGA, wouldn't she want to try her skills at a more competitive level (for her)? Is there anything wrong with that? No. I want to see the best, no matter the gender.I watched Wie at last year's Women's U.

S. Open. She's amazing. Watching Van de Velde, currently ranked #283 in the PGA Tour World Golf Ranking, play in any tournament is not exactly scintillating entertainment.

Watching his triple bogey at Carnoustie in 1999, in the British Open, trousers rolled up to his knees, was entertaining in a guilty train-wreck-in-progress kind of way. But I'd rather watch Phil Mickelson winning the Masters two years ago, or Tiger this year, than watch self destruction, a la Van de Velde in '99 or Greg Norman's major collapse at the Masters in 1996.Jay Haas could have racked up wins on the Champions Tour last year, when he was 50. Instead he played most of the year on the PGA Tour because he felt like he could still compete.

And he did, registering eight top-10s. He spent more time on the Champions Tour this year and has two wins to show for it. But for a year, able to qualify on two Tours, he chose to spend most of his time playing at a higher level.

"Playing at a higher level" is to take nothing away from the Champions Tour, as the same statement in the Van de Velde scenario would be to take nothing away from the LPGA. It's all so silly on many levels. Not acknowledging basic physical gender characteristics is as silly as criticizing Sorenstam or any other woman for playing or trying to play in a men's event.Last week: Tom Lehman was looking good in the outright at 81-1 after an opening 67 in the Chrysler Championship. In fact, all three of my outright picks (Retief Goosen and Charles Howell III were the other two) shot 67s Thursday and were on the first page of the leader board.

But, as has happened so many times this frustrating season, none of them were able to triumph. Howell ended up T16, Lehman T44, Goosen T35. I won on the head-to-head, though, for the fourth straight tournament, picking Goose to finish higher than Vijay Singh, who missed the cut.

Therefore I was finished up a net $1,200 for the week as we go into the final official tournament of 2005.This week: On Wednesday we're supposed to hear about the Tour's scheduling plans for 2007 from commissioner Tim Finchem. There's talk of a points race and a playoff, culminating with the Tour Championship, this week's end-of-season tournament. I've been griping about the length of the season and the lack of interest in tournaments after the season's last major, the PGA Championship in August.

We'll see what they come up with. If they move the Tour Championship up on the calendar and still have the tournaments that precede it now, we'll be in the same position. That will effectively end the season earlier (good) while extend the silly season (bad), which will be what those tournaments become if the Tour Championship is made a more pronounced Super Bowl than it is now.

It's tricky. We'll see that they come up with.In any case, the Tour Championship is Tiger's tournament to lose. He's won it before (in 1999) but not at East Lake Golf Club outside Atlanta. Tiger finished runner-up to Retief Goosen last year at East Lake.

He wants this one pretty bad and he's likely going to get it, but I can't go with him at 3.5-1 odds. That is simply not a money-winning proposition. So I'm going to make a big splash, and nail the season's final tourney, making you some season-ending dough.

Take Ben Crane (66-1), 1/3rd unit. The slowest player on Tour may also be the best putter on Tour. You have to like that in a big tournament. Crane can score. He's infuriating to watch, but he can score. Since the B.

C. Open in July, he hasn't missed a cut and has finished in the top-10 four times, including his win at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. The last several years, the Tour Championship has been won by big names, which shouldn't be a surprise because only top players make it in.

Here's to Crane being this year's Chad Campbell.Take Stuart Appleby (50-1), 1/3rd unit. The Aussie who started 2005 with a win can close the season with a win because he's playing consistently good golf (T9, T11, T58, T32, T27 in his last five tournaments) and he's a touch veteran, unfazed by the star caliber in the field. Putting is the biggest concern.Take Kenny Perry (40-1), 1/3rd unit. I especially like this pick.

We haven't heard much from Perry in the last couple months. He's only played twice in that time and only one money event, the WGC American Express Championship the beginning of October. But what another fine year for Perry: wins at Bay Hill and the Colonial, to go with five top-10s and six top-25s. Perry continues to be scary-good with the irons.

In the head-to-head, take Crane to finish higher than Sean O'Hair at 10/11odds (two units).

.Jeremy Church is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League.

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By: Jeremy Church

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