Im Not a Social Golfer

By Associated PressOctober 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
2006 Samsung World ChampionshipHALF MOON BAY, Calif. ' Annika Sorenstam is headed into the stretch run of her final LPGA season still exuding the same competitive drive that has carried her this far.
 
Im not a social golfer, she said matter-of-factly Wednesday when asked about what shell do once through on tour.
 
Getting married, motherhood and some down time without clubs in hand will be more her style soon. Maybe a trip back here to relax and use the spa in the luxe Ritz-Carlton resort. Enjoy a little high-class food and wine.
 
But not just yet.
 
I try not to think about it, she said. I am still so competitive. This is what I have done for over 20 years. Ive done this for a very long time. Its just something thats in me.
 
Sorenstam, who turns 38 next Thursday, has won a record five Samsung World Championships ' and the Swede would like nothing more than to go out on top this week in her last one.
 
That will take beating two-time defending champion and world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa. Sorenstam would like to finish atop the money list in her last year, too, and as Player of the Year. Both of those things also would mean passing Ochoa.
 
And Sorenstam is realistic.
 
That challenge is a little tougher than I anticipated starting, Sorenstam said Wednesday following her pro-am round at the Samsung. I got off to a good start but havent played really well. Pretty much since my announcement, Ive been nonstop. Ive been traveling a lot, playing a lot of tournaments. The results havent been there to put me in that situation.
 
Sorenstam and Ochoa will be the favorites ' fan favorites, too ' when they tee off together Thursday in the first round of the elite, 20-player field on the 6,450-yard, par-72 Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links. A year ago, Ochoa beat Mi Hyun Kim by four strokes in the event at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert. It was the seventh of her eight 2007 victories.
 
Ochoa, from Mexico, has seven tour titles this season and Sorenstam three. Both are seeking the $250,000 winners purse here.
 
Annika, of course, has played many years, said Ochoa, the winner Sunday in Alabama. I have so much respect for her. But I dont want her to beat me. Well see at the end of the season where we both are.
 
They each like the challenging course, with its five par-5s rather than the typical four and thick grass that makes for tough chipping.
 
I am hitting my driver good, said Ochoa, who recently spent time back home resting and tweaking her swing. Thats important this week. Im going to make sure I can get it in the right direction. I think hitting the fairways is probably going to be the most important thing.
 
That, and staying focused to avoid the distractions of the spectacular ocean views on the Northern California coast just south of San Francisco.
 
The good thing, if you hit a bad shot, its nice to look at the ocean and breathe, Ochoa said. Its beautiful.
 
Yani Tseng also should be high on the leaderboard. She is the leader for LPGA Rookie of the Year race and ranked No. 3 in the world. She is the youngest player in the field at 19, and clearly thrilled ' not to mention downright giddy ' to be among top players.
 
She and Ochoa often bet $50 for both most birdies and lowest round.
 
Im very happy to be betting with Lorena, Tseng said, chuckling. Last tournament we had two rounds together. I tell myself, This is very important. I want to beat her. Every time I make a par I just watch her and smile. We are good friends and we are going to bet until maybe we both retire.
 
So, Sorenstam isnt the only one targeting Ochoa this week ' and Ochoa realizes the depth in her sport is only increasing by the day and by the tournament.
 
Right now she is the No. 1 player in the world, said Paula Creamer, raised in nearby Pleasanton. Lorena is a very confident player, but there are so many people out there trying to challenge that. I think thats great. I dont think weve had that before in womens golf.
 
The tournament had been at Bighorn the past four years. This move gives Northern California consecutive weeks of womens golf. The Longs Drugs Challenge is next week in nearby Danville.
 
Half Moon Bay, designed by Arthur Hills in 1997, becomes the 15th course to host the Samsung.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Samsung World Championship
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.