Annika Looking to Ace First Test

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2004, 5:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- The craziness of a year ago is gone, leaving Annika Sorenstam to look for challenges that have nothing to do with playing against men.
It didn't take her long to find one that might be even more daunting than competing on the PGA Tour.
Sorenstam tees off Thursday trying to make history of a different kind at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where her goal of winning the four LPGA Tour major championships will be tested in her second tournament of the season.
It's never been done before, though Sorenstam came close last year, when she won two majors. Even to set it as a goal would seem laughable for anyone other than the most dominant female player of her time.
But Sorenstam is used to doing things that aren't done much - like shooting 59 or playing on the PGA Tour.

'I know nobody else has done it so it's a very lofty goal, but, if you believe it in your mind, I believe I can do it,' Sorenstam said. 'I love challenges, and this is something that really keeps me motivated, something that makes me want to work harder.'
Sorenstam won't have long to find out if her latest goal is doable. If she's not taking the traditional winner's plunge into the pond by the 18th green Sunday afternoon, it will be time to look for new challenges for the year.
For now, though, the mission at Mission Hills Country Club is simple - win the first major championship of the year for the third time in the last four years.
Without the first one, there will be no Grand Slam.
'It would obviously be great to do it,' she said. 'I've achieved a lot in my career and I'm very proud of that, and now I'm looking ahead and looking for the next thing to do.'
Sorenstam couldn't be in a better position to begin her quest in a tournament she's won twice on a course with tight fairways and thick rough that is made for her long and accurate shots. She opened the season with a victory in Australia, and won her first LPGA Tour event of 2004 last week in Phoenix.
That was her 49th LPGA Tour win in a little more than 10 years, and she's at a rare time in a player's career where winning major championships and making history is more important than the week-to-week grind of the tour.
'People say you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself,' Sorenstam said. 'I don't feel it this way, it's just me knowing what I want to do. This is what I'm like. Some people want to share their goals, some don't.'
The goal is hardly unreachable, though the pressure will build with every victory. Sorenstam was only a few mistakes away from winning all four major titles last year, when she had a lot more on her mind than winning on the LPGA Tour.
Two bad swings on the back nine helped Patricia Meunier-Lebouc win the Nabisco, while a wayward shot on the final regulation hole at the U.S. Open prevented Sorenstam from winning a tournament she seemed to have under control.
Sorenstam won the other two majors, the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open to claim a career Grand Slam.
'She's incredible. She doesn't make many mistakes out there,' said Lorena Ochoa, who tied for third last year. 'I admire her very much. The only thing we can do, players right now, is learn from her, respect her and try to follow what she's doing.'
Sorenstam, whose inability to consistently win majors early in her career was the only criticism against her, said her experience playing against the men at Colonial should only help her in the final holes of major championships.
She can't imagine any more pressure than she felt in May when she teed it up on the first hole at Colonial.
'Playing with the guys obviously helps, it's made me tougher,' Sorenstam said. 'When you play under pressure like the Colonial, being under the microscope, it doesn't get any harder than that. I feel more comfortable being there and performing under pressure.'
That can't be good news to the rest of the field in the desert - a group that includes 14-year-old Michelle Wie.
Despite her age, Wie is now more than a novelty on the women's tour. She got in the final group on Sunday last year after a third round 66, only to fade to ninth place.
Still, that wasn't bad for a teen who seemed just as concerned about getting her braces off than winning a golf tournament. Wie is now in high school, and will be playing in her second LPGA tournament of the year after a top 20 finish last week in Phoenix.
'Last year was really fun and special to me, but my goal this year is to play better and hopefully jump in the lake,' Wie said.
One thing for sure is there will be a new champion this week. Meunier-Lebouc had a baby in February and is not ready to play competitive golf again just yet.
Meunier-Lebouc was at the course Wednesday to accept a painting in recognition of her win. Her husband stood by proudly holding their baby while she talked to the media.
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Kraft Nabisco Championship

  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco Championship

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

    John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

    Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

    Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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    Gustafson shares stuttering success video

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

    Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

    She did so without stuttering.

    And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

    “I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

    For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

    Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

    Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

    Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

    “If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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    J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Make way for Jin Young Ko.

    The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

    Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

    Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

    Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

    Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

    “I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

    Ko finished at 14 under overall.

    It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

    Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

    Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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    Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

    It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

    Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

    Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

    ''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

    ''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

    ''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

    Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

    Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

    ''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

    Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

    Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

    The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.