Annika Hardly Thrilled with Start of Season

By Associated PressMay 2, 2006, 4:00 pm
REUNION, Fla. -- She's earned nearly $500,000 this season, leads the LPGA with four top-10 finishes in five events and holds her customary spot among tour leaders in several statistical categories.
A fine start for some. In Annika Sorenstam's world, this is practically a major slump.

Sorenstam is winless in her last four starts, finishing fourth Sunday at the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open near Orlando, where a final-round 67 was her lone sub-70 round of the week. And considering how quickly the top-ranked women's player has started recent seasons, maybe this qualifies as a bit of a slide.
'Resultswise, I'm not so pleased,' Sorenstam said. 'But I'm happy with the way I'm playing. I'm just going to keep on grinding. Hopefully, it will turn around.'
Those are two words not typically associated with one another -- especially early in the year.
She opened this season with a victory at the MasterCard Classic, the third straight year that Sorenstam has won the first event she enters. Another win looked likely three events later at the Florida's National Charity Championship, but she dropped the lead with a final-round 75 and lost by two shots.
'Maybe it's changing,' said Cristie Kerr, who finished tied for second with Sorenstam after that final round debacle. 'But in the past, you would never be able to catch her.'
Sorenstam won six of her first eight tournaments in 2005, breaking 70 a total of 22 times in those 30 rounds. Her knack for strong starts is all but an annual rite:
-- She won four times in her first eight starts in 2004.
-- She was first or second five times in a seven-start span to open 2003.
-- She won three of seven early events in 2002.
-- She was first or second seven times in her first eight starts in 2001.
This year, Sorenstam is on the leaderboards with the same regularity -- just not atop them. And she said there's only one real problem with her game.
'Just the scoring part, which is the biggest part,' Sorenstam said. 'I mean, I'm working on everything and at least the last week I've been hitting it really well. I'm hoping that it's all turning around. I really am.'
At the Ginn, on a course she knew better than most of the field, Sorenstam was never in position make a run at the lead. Ball-striking wasn't an issue; she hit about two of every three fairways and four out of every five greens. But 124 putts -- 12 more than winner Mi Hyun Kim took over the four days -- was her undoing.
'I had a lot of chances,' Sorenstam said. 'I'm just not converting anything and when you don't, then you're making mistakes and walking away with bogey. So it's very frustrating and that's kind of how I feel like it's been the last month or so.'
Sorenstam's next event is in two weeks, the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill. This week, her goal is simply to figure out what's lacking right now and correct it -- a challenge she said she'd welcome.
'I love the competition and to see all the young players come up,' Sorenstam said. 'Their games are getting better and I've got to step up, myself, which I think is good for me. I've got to find new ways to practice and new ways to get better.'
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.