Annika Gets the Hardware Wie Gets the Hype
All she did at the Samsung World Championship was remind anyone watching why she rules her world. Despite a double bogey on the last hole, she won by eight shots. And her eighth victory of the season -- no one else has won more than twice -- ensured Sorenstam will be the LPGA Tour player of the year for a record eighth time.
But she will have to settle for the hardware, not the hype.
Because even after one of her most dominant victories of the year, Sorenstam was a forgotten figure before the champagne was chilled.
The buzz at Bighorn was -- and still is -- about Michelle Wie.
Sorenstam walked quietly into the desert night with her 64th career victory.
Wie was surrounded by her parents, sponsors, family friends, security and tournament officials who ushered her past a dozen photographers into a golf cart after getting disqualified for taking a bad drop.
Sorenstam can understand getting ignored because of Tiger Woods, simply because people pay more attention to the PGA Tour and Woods has become the most famous athlete in the world.
The star power in women's golf now belongs to a teenager whose legend is built around power, potential and big dreams, with a marketing appeal that required a signature on two endorsement contracts to become the highest-paid woman in golf.
With the crystal trophy at her side, Sorenstam dropped subtle hints Sunday evening that winning the Samsung World Championship was important ``for many reasons,'' not the least of which was upstaging Wie. The 35-year-old Swede is comfortable with who she is and what she has done.
But every superstar has an ego, and Sorenstam is no different.
``I'm very competitive,'' she said. ``I want to play well when everyone is talking about someone else.''
Sorenstam is used to hearing her name mentioned when people talk about golf stardom, especially during her incomparable success over the last five years -- seven majors, 41 victories, nearly $12 million in earnings. And perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is finishing in the top three 63 percent of the time.
It's not always about her, of course.
``Tiger is the only one I can think of,'' Sorenstam said when asked the last time she wasn't part of the conversation. ``Maybe because this is the LPGA, it seems like it's been more about Michelle than Tiger.''
Wie brings notoriety, no matter what she does or where she goes.
People want to watch her.
The crowds at Bighorn typically are sparse because of the searing desert heat and a hilly course designed for golf carts, yet Wie had the largest galleries throughout the week. Even though she already had played 24 times on the LPGA Tour since she was 12, her professional debut was accompanied by the kind of hype Woods got when he turned pro.
She was on the cover of Fortune magazine. More than 225 media credentials were issued, so many that tournament officials had to expand the press tent. The room was packed whenever she was in there, especially late Sunday evening when she pulled off her most impressive feat at Bighorn -- standing firm about her drop while showing respect for the rule that got her disqualified.
Wie had to forfeit her fourth-place finish and first tournament paycheck of $53,126, although the money doesn't mean anything. She already has contract endorsements worth $8 million to $10 million, and it's not like Wie needs the LPGA earnings to get her card. She doesn't plan to join the LPGA Tour for two more years.
What she gained from her loss was even more exposure.
And that pushed Sorenstam further into the background of a sport that, for the moment, is all about Wie.
About the only people who truly appreciate Sorenstam are her peers.
``When Annika comes to play, Annika comes to win,'' Lorie Kane said after she finished her round Sunday, the scoreboard behind her on the 18th showing Sorenstam up by 10 shots early on the back nine. ``It doesn't matter who else is playing. When she tees it up, she means business. That's why she is one step ahead of all of us.''
Sorenstam insisted there was no message sent at Samsung, although 19-year-old Paula Creamer thought otherwise. Creamer already has taken some of the Swede's spotlight because of her moxie, her good looks, her stellar play at the Solheim Cup and the American flag next to her name.
She was a footnote at Bighorn, eight shots behind in second place.
``Annika was just probably sending a statement to the world saying, 'I'm still here. I'm still the best player,''' Creamer said.
Sorenstam says she is motivated when the sun rises, that no one pushes her harder than herself. Even so, she has noticed the strongest youth movement on the LPGA Tour in 25 years, and it has her attention.
``I know the young ones are going to take over eventually, there is no doubt about it,'' Sorenstam said. ``I love the position I'm in, and I'm not going to let it go too easily.''
It might keep her on the LPGA Tour long enough to break Kathy Whitworth's record of 88 career victories. Sorenstam is at No. 64, and at this rate could break the record in three years.
Whether anyone would notice remains to be seen.
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.
''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''
He's making his first start in the event.
''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.
Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.
''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''
Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.
The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.
''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''
Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.
''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.
Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.
John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.
He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.
How rare is his missing the cut there?
The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.
The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.
The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.
Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.
Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.