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Battle of the Sexes: Shootout at Royal Oak

I noticed that Lorie had one of the new Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putters with the two white golf-ball-sized disks on the mallet head.

"That putter ought to be illegal," I muttered.

"It swings itself," Lorie answered with a self-deprecating shrug.

On the second hole, a par three with water flanking the left side of the green, the wind began to pick up, and so did my macho. I tried to hammer a seven-iron at the pin from 169 yards, only to overcook my draw and watch the ball tumble down the slope precariously close to the hazard. Lorie hit a soft six-iron from 150 yards that left her safely on the green about twenty feet above the hole. I failed to get up and down, and she two putted for par to take a one-up lead. I vainly tried to console myself with the knowledge that I appeared to be a good club and a half longer than Lorie with my irons.

The par-four third, a challenging tree-lined dogleg left that measures 452 yards from the blue tees and plays into the prevailing wind, is the number-one-handicap hole at Royal Oak. I set up to hit a low running hook but wound up hitting a high pull that caromed off an oak tree. Lorie, who was teeing off with a twenty-three-yard advantage, countered with a beautifully shaped draw. We both ended up with 200-yard second shots, but Lorie was playing from the middle of the fairway and I was in the left rough. I took perverse delight when we both missed the green and had to settle for bogeys.

After Lorie and I halved the next two holes with routine pars, I started to believe that I could hold my own if I kept my wits about me. That proved to be wishful thinking. On the par-four sixth, which was playing against the wind, I punched a seven-iron approach fifteen feet from the pin. Lorie answered with a nifty little knockdown nine-iron to twelve feet. I missed my putt and she made hers for a birdie and a two-up lead.

"Danny and I have worked a lot on that knockdown shot," Lorie said as she replaced the pin. "I was surprised that most of the girls on tour don't have it. I went down to the Disney this year to watch Tiger Woods. It was the first time I'd seen him in person. He's terrific with those shots."

The next two holes were back-to-back par fives, both potentially reachable in two, offering me a fair opportunity to even up the match. As it happened, I wound up making disappointing pars thanks to a pair of mediocre drives followed by two mediocre fairway woods and two mediocre pitch shots. Lorie extended her lead to three-up with a ten-foot birdie putt on the seventh. She might have birdied the eighth as well but for a sloppy pitch from about fifty yards out. "That's one of the things I need to improve if I want to beat the Annikas and Karries of the world," she admitted as she two putted for par. "And I will, because I do."

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