Big Test for Beatable Sorenstam

By Associated PressJune 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
USGAAnnika Sorenstam has gone from the slam to the slump.
She was on the fast track to the Grand Slam last year after winning the first two majors by a combined 11 shots, leading over the final 54 holes in each of them. Her victims were a 45-year-old easing into retirement (Rosie Jones) and a 15-year-old who still had two years left in high school (Michelle Wie).
The Swede looked unstoppable until running into her toughest opponent: The U.S. Women's Open.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has only one victory this season -- her first start of the year.
One year later, the showcase event in women's golf stands in the way of a different goal for Sorenstam, who is trying to diffuse talk about her being in a slump.
''I don't use that word myself,'' Sorenstam said. ''I'm one of the few players that won this year, so in a way, I take it as a compliment because I have set the standard very high. It might not sound like the greatest season so far, but I have not played half of the tournaments yet. Let's just see how the season turns out.''
The U.S. Women's Open begins Thursday at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, a founding member of the USGA that held the first two majors in this country -- the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open, one day apart in 1895 -- and did not host another big event until Tiger Woods won his second U.S. Amateur in 1995.
It is the main event on the LPGA Tour, offering $560,000 to the winner.
''There's just something different about the U.S. Open that makes it that much more important to just about anyone that plays it,'' two-time Open champion Karrie Webb said. ''It's going to be a really tough challenge. I'm preparing now for that to be a really long, tiring week, and telling myself now to be patient.''
Sorenstam has no choice but to preach patience, hopeful her game will turn around.
She won her 2006 debut on the LPGA Tour at a 54-hole event in Mexico, but that remains her only victory this year. She is No. 6 on the money list, but everyone is used to seeing her name at the top. And while Sorenstam has finished in the top 10 at both majors, she was never seriously a factor in either.
She is not hitting as many fairways. She is not making enough putts. She can't seem to put three or four good rounds together.
''It just goes a little bit up and down at the moment,'' she said. ''I just keep on going because I know what I'm capable of. I've hit a little plateau at the moment, and I'm trying to find a way to get to the next step and keep on cruising, the way I did a few years ago.''
She comes into the U.S. Women's Open having taken two weeks off to clear her mind. She is still atop the women's world ranking by a large margin, and no one doubts her skill.
But history is not on her side at this championship -- not any more.
Ten years ago, Sorenstam was so dominant in the U.S. Women's Open that she missed only five fairways all week at Pine Needles and won by six shots, setting a tournament record at 272. It was her second straight Open title, and many more were sure to follow.
Now, that's about the only major she can't seem to win.
Going for the third leg of the Grand Slam last year at Cherry Hills, she let nerves get the best of her in the first round, then fell apart on the weekend with a four-putt double bogey on Saturday and a 77 on Sunday.
She needed a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to win at Pumpkin Ridge in 2003 and had only a 4-wood left to the green. But she hit it behind a portable toilet, hit wedge into the bunker and made bogey to finish one shot out of the playoff. The year before, at Prairie Dunes, she led by two shots going into the final round and lost to Juli Inkster.
''It's really the No. 1 major ... and the U.S. Open always means a lot to me,'' Sorenstam said. ''I haven't won it in a while, and I've had the chance a few times. I've been very, very close, so I'm looking forward to it. Like I said, I'm just wanting my game to turn around, and it will be a lot more fun.''
The U.S. Women's Open is not meant to be fun. It was a matter of survival last year at Cherry Hills, a test so demanding that only one player broke par in the final round and seven players didn't break 80. Birdie Kim won by holing a 30-yard bunker shot on the last hole to finish at 3-over 287.
Newport figures to be just as stern. It is a links-style course off Newport Harbor and can stretch to 6,616 yards. It features deep grass off the fairway and wind that makes the course play even longer.
Wie had to rely on another sponsor's exemption after a final-round collapse last year sent her into a tie for 23rd. Playing her first Women's Open as a pro, she appears to be closing in on her first victory since 2003. She had birdie putts on the final hole of this year's first two majors that would have put her in a playoff, missing from 10 feet at the Kraft Nabisco and from 50 feet at the LPGA Championship.
In between, she made the cut against the men on the Asian Tour and tried to qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. But her putting needs vast improvement, along with her wedge play.
''I was counting too much on the last moment, and I know what I have to work on for the next two weeks,'' Wie said after the LPGA Championship. ''I'm really excited for the U.S. Open.''
Sorenstam has gone only three months without a victory, so a win at the U.S. Women's Open hardly would feel like a renaissance in her career. Considering how long it's been since she won the Open, though, it might feel like one.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry