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.
Related Links:
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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm