Cracks Show in SÃ¶renstams Game
Nice thought, Annika, but don't bother making weekend reservations.
A sponsor's invitation will give Srenstam the chance to play with the best on the PGA Tour in May. She'll make history, but she has little chance of making the cut.
Two weeks into Srenstam's historic season, the flaws of her game are evident. Surprisingly, they have little to do with how far she hits the ball.
Srenstam may be the dominant player in women's golf, but the simple truth is she routinely makes the kind of short game mistakes that force PGA Tour players to spruce up their resumes and look for jobs as club pros.
She leaves long putts 20 feet short, flubs chips from the rough and doesn't seem to be able to master the flop shot.
Under pressure, she's jumpy. When the wind blows, she's erratic.
And when she needed to pump a long drive to get home in two on the 18th hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday, she swung as hard as she could only to hit it weakly into a bunker well right of the fairway.
That's not to say Srenstam isn't very good at what she does - mainly beating up on the women on the LPGA Tour.
She did it well enough last year to win 11 times, and so far this year has been in the final group in both tournaments she has played.
But on the LPGA Tour the courses are short, the rough is even shorter and the pins are generally planted in the middle of the green. Even the best players have a habit of regularly leaving putts well short, and there are only a handful of players capable of competing week in and week out.
When Srenstam goes to Texas in May to play the Bank of America Colonial, she'll be under media pressure she never dreamed possible in the cozy confines of the LPGA Tour. She'll find a golf course 7,080 yards long with tiny greens and pins stuck behind bunkers.
The wind will likely blow as it often does in Texas. Last year, there were 30 mph winds in the first round and a thunderstorm and gusty winds in the second round.
Still, the cut was only 3-over 143, proving that these guys really are that good.
Contrast that to a windy Friday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where Srenstam airmailed a wedge over the green on a short par 3, three-putted three times and walked off the course exhausted.
'I feel kind of worn out because I was thinking so much on the course,' she said.
That kind of thinking will only be magnified at Colonial, where Srenstam will be forced to do something she doesn't do well - shape the ball around trees and through narrow fairways. The men will bang drivers over bunkers and through bends in the fairway while she will have to lay up and hit a 7 wood into the green.
For Srenstam, there's no margin for error. She can't flub a chip shot, leave a putt well short or miss-club herself in the wind, all of which she did at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Players on the PGA Tour are used to slick greens, tough conditions and cutthroat competition. If they're within 50 yards of the green, they expect to get the ball up-and-down.
Srenstam isn't, and she tends to play worse under pressure as evidenced by the fact she has won only two major championships since 1996.
'I almost get too excited when the majors come and put too much pressure on myself,' Srenstam admitted in Phoenix two weeks ago.
Already, there is concern that Srenstam will damage the LPGA Tour with a bad showing.
Srenstam's fellow players have been told by LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw to be supportive, but on a tour with as many opinions and viewpoints as the LPGA, it's not easy to keep everyone on the same page.
LPGA player Angela Stanford, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and practiced at Colonial once a week for four years while in college, wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated last week predicting Srenstam will have trouble.
'If she misses the cut, then people will decide that the only reason she dominates our tour is because the rest of us stink,' Stanford said.
People who make a living figuring these kind of things out don't think much of Srenstam's chances, either. At the Palms sports book in Las Vegas, you can bet whether Srenstam will take more or less than 76 strokes to get through the first round.
Of course, there's not much precedent for figuring this one out. The last time a female played a PGA TOUR event, Babe Zaharias qualified for the 1945 Los Angeles Open and made the 36-hole cut before a 79 knocked her out of the final round.
In the end, you have to give Srenstam credit for trying.
You should applaud her for taking a chance no woman has taken in 58 years.
But if you want to see her play the Colonial, tune in before the weekend.
Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar
DOHA, Qatar – Eddie Pepperell, Gregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.
Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.
One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.
Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.
Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.
Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.
He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.
''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.
''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.
''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.
''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”
Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.
''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.
''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''
Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.
How to watch:
Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET
Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET
Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)
Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)
Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.
Notables in the field:
• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.
• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.
• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.
• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.
• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.
• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green.
• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.
• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.
• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13).
Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand
CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.
Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.
''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.
''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''
Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.
Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.
''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.
Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.
Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.
''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.
She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.
Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.