She had prepared for this day for months, she said, and she couldn't have been more ready.

Annika Sorenstam, the first woman golfer to play in a men's PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945, hit her first shot straight and true this morning at the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. She exhaled, feigned a collapse, and then marched through the 18 holes at one over par -- a score that put her six shots behind the leader and in decent shape to make the cut after tomorrow's second round.

"I'm very happy with the way I played," she said afterward. "The guys I played with were so nice, I don't know if I would have made it without them."

Sorenstam will return to the LPGA Tour -- where she's won 43 times -- after this event. Until then, we will enjoy her time in the spotlight with her.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Intel's Close Call

We know it's normally news if a shareholder proposal passes, not when it fails. That's why we blow the trumpet when an Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) shareholder proposal to expense stock options on the income statement fails with a whopping 47.55% of eligible shares voting in favor. Very close.

Consider that Intel execs, especially Chairman Andy Grove, have very publicly led the charge against expensing stock options granted to employees on the company's quarterly and annual income statement. They prefer instead to detail them in a footnote to the financial statements, which was common practice for most public companies until recently. Intel has since become a lightning rod for criticism of the whole issue.

So, kudos to large shareholders led by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Pension Fund, who offered a stock options expensing proposal for a vote at yesterday's Intel annual meeting. Among many arguments, management counters that it's too speculative to value the options -- will they be valuable? worthless? -- so including them on the income statement would be misleading, and the company spent a lot of shareholder money distributing materials to support the claim. Intel management maintains that the real corporate governance issue is disclosure, which they are increasing.

That's like telling your child that, yes, it's a bad thing to punch someone, but it's not as bad as murder, so as long you don't kill someone, you can punch anyone you like. How is this any better than Richard Scrushy, Dennis Kozlowski, Andrew Fastow, or Jack Grubman?

There's only time in a short Take to say one thing substantively about management's complaint about the impossibility of valuing options: bullfeathers. Intel and everyone else value options all the time with the Black-Scholes formula in their financials' fine print. So, find an academic theory and use it. It's what CFOs and their employees do all the time in the income statement, which is already a guess, estimate, speculation, accounting game theory, and subjective romp. For crying out loud, it's basically the company's tax return -- the only tax return they release publicly. What does that tell you about how seriously to take it?

We Foolish analysts use the income statement, but with great skepticism. We consider it a junior member of the family, dwarfed by elder siblings -- the balance sheet, cash flow statement, and the footnotes (and we can help you read all of them like a pro). But the income statement is a fact of life, and we firmly believe that individual investors should not have to earn a Ph.D. in Fine Print to understand their companies' financials. If there were no other argument for expensing, that would be enough.

Let me be clear: We credit not one argument raised by Intel or any other management for keeping the option grants off the income statement. Whitney Tilson effectively rebuts the stock option defenders, as do these representative Motley Fool columns:

Are We Angry? You Bet by Bill Mann
Stock Options: Now You Care? by Bill Mann
The Stock Option Travesty by Whitney Tilson
Stock Options' Perverse Incentives by Whitney Tilson
Options and Other Accounting Scandals by Bill Mann

Grove and company will lose in the end, and all their efforts will be sound and fury, signifying nothing. Such a waste.

Discussion Board of the Day: Intel

What's your take on expensing stock options and Intel's drive against it? Share your thoughts with our Community of Fools in the Intel discussion board. Only on

Quote of Note

"Putting $1,000 in the pockets of 310,000 families with urgent needs is going to provide far more stimulus to the economy than putting the same $310 million in my pockets." -- Warren Buffett, on Wednesday's Nightline, arguing that a better economic stimulus would occur if money were placed in the hands of those who would use it

The Fed Gets Foolish

Alan Greenspan will soon be appearing on a television near you -- in advertisements pitching better financial education for Americans. The Federal Reserve chairman may not be as hot as new "American Idol" Ruben Studdard, but he does have a much more important message.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the 30-second spots will point viewers to "When it comes 2 economic education, the Federal Reserve is where it's @," the website proclaims. There's a "Federal Reserve 101" section, but the real meat is under the personal financial education link. There you'll find information about banking, mortgages, consumer protection, and more.

"The information is authoritative and often detailed," says the Journal, but it's "cumbersome to navigate" and weighted more toward banking and economics. It offers less "for someone who wants simple advice on how to buy a mutual fund, pay taxes or consolidate debts with a new mortgage."

The Journal is right, but we applaud the Fed's effort and hope the content will become more relevant over time. We also firmly believe that -- in its related links area -- the Fed should link to The Motley Fool for free, informative, unbiased advice on dozens of relevant topics. (A good place to start is right here or, for the ultimate in financial planning and toll-free access to the financial advisors at the Ayco AnswerLine service, consider TMF Money Advisor.)

"It is difficult for people to find information that is unbiased and helps them," Fed Governor Edward Gramlich told the Journal. We agree, and are genuinely proud to be able to provide it.

The Right Real Estate Agent

What level of service would you expect from someone you paid $4,830? For that kind of money, you'd probably demand personal attention, prompt responses to inquiries, expert insight, and a daily foot massage.

Then that's what you should expect from a real estate agent since -- based on the median home sale price of $161,00 and the standard commission of 3% -- she stands to make several grand once the transaction is complete. (You probably won't get a foot massage, but it might not hurt to ask.)

So, what are the characteristics of an agent who's earning her keep? An excellent agent:

  • Stays on top of deadlines with home repairs, inspections, appraisals, and paperwork.

  • Helps prepare your home for sale. She provides honest and helpful insight about what will be a turn-off to potential buyers and offers to help spruce up the place (known as "staging" in the business -- a good agent will even have props such as lamps, pictures, and plants).

  • Returns calls and emails quickly and answers questions completely.

  • Will consider negotiating the commission, especially if she is handling the sale of one home and the purchase of another.

  • Evaluates all aspects of a house you're interest in, including the size of water heater, the type of heating source, the ages of the appliances, and suspicious stains.

  • Continues working for you even after the deal is done. She makes sure you get your checks from escrow, gets you copies of all important documents, and answers questions after she's banked her commission.

  • Is a vigorous but fair advocate. A real estate agent (or buyer broker, or selling broker) is your guide and counsel during what can be a lengthy, complicated ordeal. She defends your interests without offending the other party.

If your agent fits this description, congratulations. If not, strongly consider hiring someone else. Why pay thousands of dollars for anything but the best?

If you'd like to learn more about the home-buying or selling process, including how to get the best mortgage, you're in luck -- it's Buy, Sell, or Home?month at the Fool.

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Quick Takes

President Bush said today that he will sign the $350 billion 10-year tax cut package passed by the Senate and House. Calling it "good for American workers, good for American families," the President visited Congress to thank Republican lawmakers for pushing the deal through. Though he once derided the $350 billion plan as "itty bitty," he seemed accepting and proud today of the compromise.

When George Soros isn't betting against the dollar, or railing against the dividend tax cut, he and the other members of Soros Private Equity Partners are pouring more money into Internet retailer Bluefly(Nasdaq: BFLY). Soros lived up to his previous promise to provide $1 million cash to Bluefly if needed, and got some convertible stock in return. That brings Soros' total investment in Bluefly up to around $50 million, and the partnership's diluted stake in Bluefly up to 76.5%.

Aetna (NYSE: AET) settled the class action lawsuit brought by doctors who felt the company interfered with proper treatments for patients and held back payments owed to them. It agreed to pay $170 million to settle the suit, and also said it's revamping its bill payment system. The new system is supposed to save doctors an estimated $300 million in the next several years.

Shares of chip design software company Synopsys(Nasdaq: SNPS) are jumping 16% today after its strong second-quarter results. Including acquisition-related costs, it earned $22.3 million, or $0.29 a share, compared to $21.4 million, or $0.33 a share last year. Taking out those costs, it netted $61.2 million, or $0.80 a share. On this basis, analysts were anticipating $0.70 a share. Revenues rose 57% to $292 million from $185.6 million.

And Finally...

Today on

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim