Annika Appeals to All Golfers in New Book

By Associated PressOctober 5, 2004, 4:00 pm
Ernie Els was intrigued when he saw the cover of the book, showing Annika Sorenstam looming large with a club over her shoulder and a smile on her face.

He flipped through the pages and liked what he saw.
 
Ill read this, Els said. She does a lot of good things with her swing. Her basics are excellent.
 
He was looking at Golf Annikas Way, which Gotham Books is releasing this week. Sorenstam wrote the instructional book with help from swing coach Henri Reis, longtime Swedish Golf Federation coach Pia Nilsson, trainer Kai Fusser and the editors of Golf magazine.
 
The purpose is to take readers inside her Hall-of-Fame career ' 53 victories on the LPGA Tour, seven major championships, the career Grand Slam, the only woman to shoot 59, and how she coped with the pressure as the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
 
Els unsolicited endorsement was important.
 
While there are plenty of instruction books on the market ' Els has done two of them himself ' very few have been written by women. Sorenstam is the most famous female golfer in the world, one of those rare athletes known by one name. Still, she believes her book can appeal to more than just women.
 
I think its for everyone, Sorenstam said. I think it will help the average golfer, somebody who understands a little bit of the game and wants to get better.
 
Sorenstam never realized she knew so much about the swing.
 
She describes herself as a feel player, and having played golf more than half her life, the swing comes naturally to her. Only when she went into the details, from hitting the driver to holing a few putts, did she appreciate how so many working parts fit together.
 
It was amazing when we started to get into the instruction part of it, she said. I had to express or explain something. I had to write it down, go step by step and find ways to make this easy. A lot of these things come naturally to me. But as a beginner, its important to get down to the basics.
 
She never relied on instruction books as a kid in Sweden because she had a coach. Along with Reis putting her through drills (such as moving her head forward at impact, her signature move), Nilsson instilled the concept of Vision 54, which teaches players not to put any limitations on themselves.
 
But writing an instruction book of her own?
 
Ive read a few of them, but I always felt like they were so complicated, Sorenstam said. I wanted there to be a lot of pictures in this book, and easy explanations, not too detailed so that its page after page of how to swing. I wanted to see examples ' yes, do this; no, dont do that.
 
Helping her along were Golf magazine senior editor Tara Gravel (biography and fitness chapters) and associate editor Dave Allen, who works with Sorenstam on instructional pieces for the magazine.
 
The most amazing thing I can say about her is that all these guys on tour are constantly making swing changes, and major equipment changes, Allen said. Shes done it with the same swing, the same company (Callaway). Ever since she was a teenager, her swing hasnt changed.
 
Gravel worked with Sorenstam on two areas of the book that are geared more toward inspiration than instruction. One is some background on Sorenstam, how she got started and all the places it led her ' an NCAA title at Arizona, a U.S. Womens Open for her first win and that 4-wood off the 10th tee at Colonial. The other was fitness, although Sorenstam said she hopes that wont scare away anyone who cant squat 300 pounds.

The meat of the book is the swing, seven chapters that break down every facet of her game ' driving, fairway metals, long irons, wedges, chipping, bunker play and putting.
 
Two-time PGA champion Dave Stockton has been Sorenstams putting guru for years. Sorenstam also offers chipping advice she got from playing one of several practice rounds with Tiger Woods.
 
Sorenstam used to hit a collection of clubs to chip around the green, from 7-iron to wedge. Playing with Woods, she noticed him using almost exclusively the sand wedge.
 
Theres a lot of things Tiger can do that I cant, because a lot of it is strength, she said. But my feel has increased around the greens by using the same club. You learn different shots, different lofts, and you practice those. If you dont play golf every day, its not the way to go.
 
If someone can only read one chapter, Sorenstam recommends the one on course management. Thats an area she doesnt think gets enough attention, and one that has helped separate her from the rest of her peers.
 
She wont consider a risky shot unless she can pull it off six times out of 10. She would rather play a longer club into the green than a shorter one from the rough. If she cant reach a par 5 in two, sometimes its not worth it to hit driver off the tee.
 
Material from this chapter came without warning. Allen was at Lake Nona for a photo shoot in December 2001, the year Sorenstam shot 59 in Phoenix.
 
We were waiting for the dew to burn off and she just opened up, he said. She loves to talk about course management.
 
What fascinated Allen is the lack of any course management on her opening hole at Colonial. Sorenstam said she and her caddie, Terry McNamara, had a strategy for every shot on the course except her first drive, because she had no idea how she would react ' or where the tee shot would go ' with the world watching.
 
If she chunked it or bladed it into the crowd, they werent putting any expectations on that shot, he said. They only plan was to go find it and play from there.
 
Sorenstam split the middle of the fairway and went on to make a routine par.
 
She has a plan ' and high expectations ' for her first book. She hopes it can reach a lot of average players who want to get better, men and women alike.
 
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.