Annika Needing Big Finish

By Associated PressOctober 12, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Samsung World ChampionshipPALM DESERT, Calif. -- Annika Sorenstam used to own a home at Bighorn. In some respects, she owns the course.
 
Sorenstam is the two-time defending champion at the Samsung World Championship, delivering a strong reminder who rules women's golf. With all the attention on Michelle Wie making her professional debut, Sorenstam opened with a 66 and buried the so-called competition to win by eight shots.
 
The year before, she turned a three-shot deficit into a three-shot victory over Grace Park by closing with a 67.
 
And while her debut at this desert course at the base of the Santa Rosa mountains. It wasn't her best golf, but Sorenstam delivered the clutch shot by making a 10-foot birdie on the 18th hole to force extra holes, where Sorenstam and Tiger Woods defeated Karrie Webb and David Duval in the 'Battle at Bighorn.'
 
'This is a wonderful place, as you can see,' she said Wednesday. 'Wonderful memories.'
 
Sorenstam is eager to make more when the Samsung Championship begins Thursday, not only to etch her name in the record books but to keep alive her hopes of winning the LPGA Tour player of the year.
 
'I haven't really been in that situation,' Sorenstam said. 'It's kind of been locked in by this time of the year.'
 
So much has changed this year.
 
Wie has completed her first year as a professional with mixed reviews -- a whisker away from winning three majors, a flop against the men on the PGA and European tours -- but still no trophies.
 
Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak, two of the best in LPGA history, are back in the 20-player field after winning majors.
 
Perhaps the biggest difference of all is that Sorenstam is feeling some heat.
 
She set a record last year by winning the points-based Player of the Year for the fifth straight season and eighth time in her career, and it's usually decided when the LPGA season reaches its limited-field events this time of the year.
 
By her standards, 2006 has been a struggle.
 
Sorenstam has won only three times, although one of those was the U.S. Women's Open for her 10th career major. Lorena Ochoa of Mexico has four victories, leads the money list and is closing in on the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Webb has won four times, including a major, and is second to Ochoa in the race for Player of the Year.
 
And Sorenstam?
 
'I know I have to play well,' she said.
 
Along with the Samsung, which has turned into an annuity for the 36-year-old Swede, Sorenstam is defending champion in Mizuno Classic and the season-ending ADT Championship.
 
'If I play well in these three, I think I have a very, very good chance,' she said. 'I'm motivated about that. I want to finish strong, and that's why my schedule is quite busy.'
 
Ochoa is in control. While she didn't win a major this year, it felt like one last week in Mexico where she won before her home crowd for the first time and went past $2 million in earnings this year.
 
'I can only tell you that if Annika is not going to finish in the top, it would be nice that a Mexican takes that position,' Ochoa said. 'I'm trying very hard. I'm doing my best. The tour doesn't finish until November, and then we can see what happens.'
 
The LPGA season ends this week for Wie, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Wednesday, with an anniversary on Thursday.
 
It was a year ago at the Samsung that the teenager from Hawaii made her professional debut with high expectations and scrutiny that no other newcomer in golf has faced since Tiger Woods turned pro.
 
Woods won in his fifth start as a pro on the PGA Tour.
 
This is Wie's eighth try as a pro on the LPGA Tour, and has reason to believe it's been an astounding year. While she didn't win, Wie got into contention for the first time and came close to winning the first three majors. She had at least a share of the lead at some point over the final six holes in the Kraft Nabisco, LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open until she made a mistake or someone played better.
 
Wie isn't an LPGA Tour member, so she is limited to eight starts. Otherwise, she would be 14th on the money list in only seven events, and she joins Webb and Sorenstam as the only players this year to average more than $100,000 per start.
 
'I guess I'm taking it patiently,' Wie said. 'But I feel like being in contention this year, really getting the feel for what it's like to be in contention on the Sunday in a major, I learned a lot from that. That's the way I'm learning how to win, and I feel like it's going to happen.'
 
She has mixed memories from her debut.
 
Wie was tied for the lead through two rounds, stumbled in the third round and wound up in fourth place, 10 shots behind Sorenstam. But she was disqualified for taking an improper drop in the third round, a violation that wasn't point out until the fourth round, meaning she had signed for the wrong score and was disqualified.
 
Strangely enough, the tournament with no cut was her only LPGA event that she failed to cash a check.
 
Money isn't the object for a player likely to earn close to $20 million on and off the course this year. It's the trophies. And as she starts her second year as a pro, her hopes remain high.
 
'Every week I go into, I want to win,' Wie said. 'I'm not going to force it to happen, because it will happen.'
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.