New Venue Same Old Story

By Associated PressJune 8, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 McDonaldHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- A dozen or so fans chased after a cart that whisked Annika Sorenstam away from the 18th green at Bulle Rock on a steamy Tuesday, thrusting flags and caps for her to sign. She is the center of attention wherever she goes, even if it might take her awhile to figure out where she is.
 
Sorenstam won the LPGA Championship the last two years about 40 miles up the road at DuPont Country Club, but the environment is much different this time.
 
It starts with the golf course.
 
Gone are the tree-lined fairways of DuPont, not to mention the inflatable Ronald McDonald atop the clubhouse. Bulle Rock is a Pete Dye design that asks players to navigate from Point A to Point B, with fairways framed by rough that covers the shoes and greens that break fast and sharp around the cup.
 
``You've really got to be able to control the ball this week. That's the key,'' Sorenstam said. ``It's a true course for a major championship, I think. You have got to have all your game here.''
 
The field was increased by six players to 150, in part so that title sponsor McDonald's could get 15-year-old Michelle Wie a tee time. The criteria was changed this year to invite ``a leading amateur'' for the first time in the 51-year history of the LPGA Championship, and no one was surprised it went to Wie.
 
``All I did was receive it,'' Wie said. ``It's not like we lobbied for it. They gave it to us, and it was a great privilege to accept it.''
 
Still, the biggest change is what's at stake.
 
The McDonald's LPGA Championship, which starts Thursday, is the second stop on what Sorenstam hopes will make her the first person to win the professional Grand Slam in one calendar year.
 
That's all she has talked about for two years. And after winning the first major in March at the Kraft Nabisco Championship -- by eight shots, no less -- that's all anyone is talking about.
 
``She said she wanted to do it, and now she's the only one who has a chance,'' Meg Mallon said. ``To call your shot and then do it would be pretty amazing.''
 
Along with winning the first major, Sorenstam has won five of her first seven tournaments. The exceptions were at Kingsmill, where she was going for a record sixth consecutive victory and tied for 12th; and the Corning Classic, where she had the flu and tied for second.
 
``Obviously, if she's on the top of her game, she's going to be in contention come Sunday,'' Cristie Kerr said.
 
Despite her 61 career victories -- 38 in the last five years -- and winning the Nabisco in such overwhelming fashion, majors have not always come easily for Sorenstam. Two years ago was the first time she won two majors in a single season, the LPGA and the Women's British Open to complete the career Grand Slam.
 
Still, the 34-year-old Swede is not shy about her goals.
 
``I don't walk around every day saying, 'I want to win the Grand Slam,''' she said. ``I know it, and I'm going to try to do the best I can and prepare as much as I can. If you look at the last two weeks, I think I'm as ready as I can be. Who knows what will happen this week?''
 
The hunch is that she will be there late Sunday afternoon, as she usually is.
 
There have been sporadic challengers, from Kerr winning at Kingsmill to 18-year-old Paula Creamer winning last month at the Sybase Classic, although Sorenstam took that week off.
 
And if there are comparisons to Tiger Woods' dominance when he won four straight majors at the end of 2000 and the Masters in 2001, history might show competition is on the way.
 
``There's a lot of players out here that can hang with her now,'' Kerr said, although she didn't have a stack of evidence at her side. ``We're not seeing those kinds of players breaking through and winning yet, but we're very close. She's the best player in the world, but we're all pretty good, too, and we're all ready to challenge.''
 
The primary challenge will be the course, which features what is believed to the be longest par 5 in women's golf, the 596-yard 11th hole, which plays slightly downhill.
 
Bulle Rock was the name of a stud horse that James Samuel Patton brought to this continent in the 1730s. He is said to be the father of all thoroughbred horses in America.
 
Length might be an issue if the course doesn't recover from Monday night storms that drenched the fairways, eliminating the roll and leaving some balls on slopes. The good news for players is that tee shots slightly off line are not running through fairways into rough so deep that the only option is to hack out.
 
``It's a great major course, and hopefully I can play good on it,'' Wie said.
 
The phenom from Hawaii is making news even before hitting a shot. Wie has gotten her fill of sponsor's exemptions on the LPGA Tour -- even two on the PGA Tour this year -- but the LPGA Championship has always been for pros, not for someone who just finished the 10th grade.
 
``I understand what they're saying, but I'm just excited to be here,'' Wie said. ``So, it's good.''
 
Everyone is hopeful of a good week at Bulle Rock, a course they won't really know until they start keeping score.
 
Sorenstam is aiming higher than most. She wants this week to be part of something grand.
 
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    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.