Annika Wins Silver but Game is Golden

By Associated PressJuly 6, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 U.S. WomenSOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- The silver medal Annika Sorenstam received for her runner-up finish was slung around the back of her neck so no one could see it. It was not an intentional gesture but certainly symbolic.

She is sick of second place in the U.S. Women's Open.

The major championship she won back to back at the start of her career now seems to be the most difficult, and it doesn't help that the Women's Open happens to be the biggest event in her sport.

The last three years only make it more frustrating.

She had a two-shot lead at Prairie Dunes, shot even-par 70 in the final round and lost to a 66 by Juli Inkster.

She was poised to win at Pumpkin Ridge, standing in the fairway on the par-5 18th and needing a birdie to win until hitting her 4-wood next to a portable toilet in the trees and making bogey.
Sunday at Orchards Golf Club might have been the toughest of all.

Sorenstam putted for birdie on every hole in the final round, and she made pressure-packed birdie putts on her final two holes for a 4-under 67. She was so fired up by making the last birdie putt -- surely, that would be enough -- that she lunged toward the cup like a fencer and pumped her fist.

Alas, Meg Mallon polished off the lowest closing round by a winner in the 59-year history of the Women's Open with a bogey-free 65 to finish two shots ahead.
Thanks, Annika. See you next year.

'I really thought it was my turn,' Sorenstam said. 'Sometimes I win tournaments when I don't play as well. This week I really played well. And that's sometimes hard to swallow.'

For someone who has won 52 times, including seven majors, during her decade on the LPGA Tour, Sorenstam should know by now that some things in golf are beyond her control.

Sorenstam had no one to blame but herself last year at Pumpkin Ridge. She was 236 yards from the green for her second shot into the par-5 18th. Even a par would have been good enough for a playoff. Instead, she hit into the trees, dropped away from the portable toilet, clipped a branch and dropped into a bunker to make bogey 6.

She was angry in Oregon. She looked bewildered at the Orchards.

There should have been no disgrace losing to Mallon, who didn't make a bogey over the final 25 holes, took only 24 putts in the final round and had all the stars aligned. That's golf.

But Sorenstam expects so much more.

'I gave every effort I had,' she said. 'I grinded to the end. I was patient. I didn't throw away a shot. I never got impatient. I never got stupid. I was smart out there.'

Then she paused to let her emotions cool.

'Like I said, I got outplayed,' she continued. 'It's not a fun feeling by any means.'

By now, the 33-year-old Swede is relaxing on a boat somewhere on Lake Tahoe, and perhaps she can reflect on this Women's Open the way she should -- as another success.

Even the greatest players don't win every major.

Only the greatest players keep putting themselves in position time and again.
Along with winning a record 18 professional majors, the measure of Jack Nicklaus is his 19 runner-up finishes.

Sorenstam is at such an extraordinary level that everyone expects her to be near the top of the lead at a major championship late Sunday afternoon, and she rarely disappoints. She has finished no worse than fifth in 12 of her last 16 majors, winning five of them.

And that's what separates her from everyone else in golf -- including Tiger Woods.

Woods now has gone eight majors without winning, which in itself is no cause for alarm. Nicklaus had an 0-for-12 drought at about the same time in his life.

Even so, Nicklaus gave himself plenty of chances. During his three-year drought from the 1967 British Open through the 1970 U.S. Open, Nicklaus was a runner-up three times and finished in the top six three other times.

Woods finished one shot behind Rich Beem in the '02 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, and he was among several players who had a chance at Royal St. George's last year until Ben Curtis won the British Open.

'You've just got to keep plugging along and keep giving yourself opportunities,' Woods said last week. 'There's been no player in the history of our game that has given himself more opportunities than Jack to win major championships. I think that's what separated him from everyone else.'

That's what Sorenstam should take away from this Women's Open.

'Hopefully, Annika is feeling that she got beat today, that she didn't lose. That's what happened,' Mallon said. 'To have her be the one to finish second is even that more gratifying, the fact that you beat the best player in the world today. Because it doesn't happen very often.'

It happens more than Sorenstam would prefer, which explains her angst as she left western Massachusetts.

She'll get over this one, but it won't be easy. Sorenstam is driven to win like no other woman, and it shows by the way she is constantly contending for the biggest titles.

Next up is the Women's British Open later this month at Sunningdale, and Sorenstam will be the betting favorite to defend her title. She has seven majors. She wants to get to 10.

At this rate, it's just around the corner.
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    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.