Notes Busy Time for Annika Stricker Chooses Family
Starting next week, she will be playing in four straight tournaments -- but only two on the LPGA Tour.
Sorenstam will play in Dubai next week on the Ladies European Tour, then go to Japan for the Mizuno Classic, an LPGA event she has won the last five years. Instead of playing the Tournament of Champions in Alabama, however, Sorenstam has agreed to play in Greg Norman's Merrill Lynch Shootout in Naples, Fla., where Fred Couples will be her partner. The season ends at the ADT Championship.
Sorenstam has not played the Tournament of Champions since 2002, and it was never in her plans. Then again, she usually has the points-based award wrapped up by now.
'I can't really add any more because I'm playing every week,' she said. 'If there was some more tournaments, maybe I would add some. I gave it a run. I had a lot of tournaments to catch them.'
Sorenstam is not mathematically eliminated. She would have to win the Mizuno Classic and ADT Championship, and hope that Ochoa finishes outside the top three at her final two events, in Alabama and the Trump International.
Not quite two months after the PGA TOUR announced its fall schedule, it has hit a speed bump with one of them.
Because of construction delays and financial issues surrounding the Running Horse Golf and Country Club, tour officials will be going to Fresno, Calif., this week to meet with the developers.
The Running Horse Golf Championship is to be played Oct. 25-28 next year, the second-to-last event on the 2007 schedule. Along with falling behind on the course, KFSN-TV in Fresno has reported that the managing partners are trying to sell it.
'Things at the golf course are going slower than we thought they were,' PGA TOUR spokesman Bob Combs said. 'I understand there are one or maybe more groups looking at investing in it. But from our perspective, we're playing in Fresno.'
One option for the tour if Running Horse is not ready would be to move it to another golf course in the area, such as Fort Washington.
'We believe Running Horse is going to be the site,' Combs said. 'If it turns out to be another one, we'll cross that bridge. The key thing is we'll be there.'
TIME TO COME HOME
This should sound familiar: A PGA TOUR player deeply devoted to his family stops playing until the Bob Hope Classic because he wants to spend time at home.
For Steve Stricker, his decision means leaving a lot on the table.
It has been an amazing year for Stricker, who failed to get through the final stage of Q-school and could only get in three tournaments the first 15 weeks of the season. With two top 10s in the majors and solid play just about everywhere else, he was considered for the Ryder Cup team and moved all the way up to No. 32 on the money list.
Stricker, however, turned down exemptions to Greensboro and Disney. His season is over.
'I really don't have much to gain getting in the Tour Championship, other than the prestige,' he said. 'I'm in the U.S. majors next year. I've got a 5-month-old daughter, and it's nice to be at home. All my tournaments came at a compressed time, which was good. I have no complaints. It was a great year. But my wife is ready to have me at home. And I was ready to go home.'
This is nothing new.
Stricker, a Midwestern man at heart, usually stops playing in September to spend time with his children (he also has an 8-year-old) in Wisconsin and to hunt. He hasn't had a choice the last few years, and sure didn't think he would have that luxury this year.
Laura Davies qualified for the Samsung World Championship with a recent surge that put her atop the Ladies European Tour money list. But it wasn't enough to turn her back on a commitment to a friend.
Davies had pledged to walk 56 miles of the Great Wall of China to raise money for Great Ormond Street, the hospital that is treating the 1-year-old daughter of Helen Dobson. Davies and Dobson played on the Curtis Cup team together, and Dobson's daughter has Down's syndrome.
It can be a daunting walk, especially as the wall narrows.
'You know me, I never do anything I don't want to do,' Davies told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Britain.
It was rough, even after walking. The 43-year-old Davies stayed in farm houses with thin walls, hard beds, cold water and toilets that amounted to holes in the ground. And for meals? An evening bowl of rice.
'If I haven't lost weight, it will be a travesty,' Davies said.
One thing she was sure to gain was respect.
SAMSUNG ON THE MOVE?
With sparse galleries and a pedestrian performance from Michelle Wie, perhaps the biggest buzz at the Samsung World Championship was its possible relocation next year to Pebble Beach.
No deal has been signed, nor has the tournament decided where to stage the 2007 event.
The 20-player field has been held at 14 courses in its 27-year history, from Florida to California, from Australia to South Korea. It has been in California since 2000, first at Hiddenbrooke in Vallejo, the last three years at Bighorn.
Should it move to Pebble Beach, the only question is: Which course?
The famous Pebble Beach Golf Links is not one of the options, because the dates for next year already are booked. That could leave a course such as Del Monte or Poppy Hills, perhaps Spyglass Hill or Spanish Bay.
Tournament officials said the Samsung could return to Bighorn next year if a move to Pebble doesn't work out.
Ian Baker-Finch will remain a big part of TV coverage next year, switching over to CBS Sports as an analyst. ... Geoff Ogilvy picked up his third big prize of the year -- the birth of his first child. He and his wife, Juli, celebrated the birth of Phoebe Elizabeth on Oct. 10. Ogilvy won a World Golf Championship in February and the U.S. Open in June. ... John Cook received a sponsor's exemption to the Funai Classic at Disney, and he needs a big week. He is No. 126 on the money list, $648 behind Brian Bateman.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Samsung World Championship was the fifth time since 2001 that Annika Sorenstam has failed to win after leading by at least three shots going into the final round.
'No one is ever going to be 100 percent happy with me. I'm not ever going to be 100 percent happy with everyone in the entire world. That's normal. It would be pretty scary if everyone was happy all the time.' -- Michelle Wie.
Stenson leads strong cast of Bay Hill contenders
ORLANDO, Fla. – Henrik Stenson has a tortured history here at Bay Hill, a collection of close calls that have tested his mettle and certainly his patience.
Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational won’t get any easier. Not with a course that is already firm and fast and fiery, just the way the King would have wanted it. And not with 13 players within five shots of the lead, a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and, yes, even Tiger Woods.
Without his best stuff Saturday, Stenson still managed to edge ahead of Bryson DeChambeau to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round. It’s familiar territory for the Swede, who posted four consecutive top-10s here from 2013-16, including a few agonizing near-misses.
Three years ago, Stenson appeared on his way to victory when he was put on the clock on the 15th hole. Rattled, he three-putted the next two holes and lost by a stroke. The following year, he was tied for the lead with three holes to play, then hit it in the water on 16 and bogeyed two of the last three holes.
“It wouldn’t be the only tournament where you feel like you’ve got some unfinished business,” Stenson said, “but I’ve been up in the mix a few times and we’re here again, so of course I would like to see a different outcome.”
What will be interesting Sunday is whether history repeats itself.
Neither Stenson nor DeChambeau is quick-paced, with DeChambeau even acknowledging that he’s one of the game’s most methodical players, stepping off pitch shots and checking (and re-checking) his reads on the green. With so much at stake, it’s not a stretch to imagine both players grinding to a halt on a course that got “crusty” in the late-afternoon sun.
“We’ve got a lot of guys behind me,” DeChambeau said, “so I’ve got to go deep tomorrow.”
The 24-year-old earned his breakthrough victory last July at the John Deere Classic, but that was one hot week as he tried to play his way out of a slump.
Even this week’s performance was unexpected, after he withdrew from the Valspar Championship because of a balky back.
Last weekend he underwent an MRI (clean), didn’t touch a club for three days and showed up here cautiously optimistic. His ball-striking hasn’t suffered at all – in fact, he’s ranked fifth in strokes gained-tee to green – and now he’s relishing the chance to take on some of the game’s biggest names.
“Whatever happens,” he said, “it’s going to be a great learning experience.”
Of the 13 players within five shots of the lead, 10 are Tour winners. That includes McIlroy, whose putter has finally come alive, and Rose, who shot a third-round 67 to move within three shots, and Fowler, whose game is finally rounding into form, and also Woods, who has won a record eight times at Bay Hill.
Even if he doesn’t pick up a pre-Masters victory – he’s five shots back, the same deficit he erased here in 2009 – Woods has showed flashes of his old self at one of his favorite playgrounds, whether it’s the blistered 2-irons off the tee, the daring approach shots or the drained 40-footers.
“I’ve got a chance,” he said.
And so do the rest of the major champions and PGA Tour winners assembled near the top of the leaderboard.
It should be a wild final round at Arnie’s Place – even if Stenson, for once, is hoping for a drama-free Sunday.
DeChambeau uses big words to describe back injury
ORLANDO, Fla. – Bryson DeChambeau needed just 30 seconds of explaining the state of his lower back to send the media center at the Arnold Palmer Invitational spinning.
DeChambeau shot an even-par 72 in the third round at Bay Hill, and he will start the final round one shot behind Henrik Stenson as he looks to win for the second time in his young PGA Tour career. DeChambeau’s strong play this week comes in the wake of his decision to withdraw from last week’s Valspar Championship because of a bad back.
DeChambeau is no stranger to new vocabulary words or adopting a scientific take on matters, and it was when he delved into the details of his injury that things got interesting.
“It was because my quadratus lumborum wasn’t working. My iliacus, longissimus thoracis, they were all kind of over-working if you want to get technical on that,” DeChambeau said. “But they weren’t working very well, and I overworked them. Pretty much my lower right back was hurting and I rested it. How about that?”
DeChambeau tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month, but he has struggled to find results in the weeks since. One of the keys to a quick recovery between Innisbrook and Bay Hill was some time on the couch this past weekend and a binge session of The Walking Dead on Netflix.
“I literally didn’t do anything, and that’s really the first time I’ve done that in my entire life. I’ve never actually taken three days off where I didn’t touch a club,” DeChambeau said. “So that was unique for me and actually took me some time to acclimate to that, my body to get comfortable to get in a rested state. And then once it was finally able to rest, it healed a little bit and I was able to make a run for it this week.”
Woods fielding Masters practice-round requests
ORLANDO, Fla. – Heading into what is likely his final competitive round before the Masters, Tiger Woods is starting to set up his schedule for the days leading into the season’s first major.
Woods has won the Masters four times, most recently in 2005, and in the wake of a runner-up at the Valspar Championship and a strong showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he’ll head down Magnolia Lane with more momentum than he’s had in years. As a result, it’s not surprising that he has received more than a few inquiries about a possible practice round at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters week.
“I’ve gotten a couple requests here and there,” Woods said with a grin after a third-round 69 at Bay Hill.
Woods has played the Masters only once since 2014, but don’t expect him to try out some unfamiliar pairings on Tuesday and Wednesday amid the azaleas. Woods still plans to rely on a rotation he’s had for several years, playing with former champs Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara. O’Meara, who received his green jacket from Woods in 1998, plans to make this year his final Masters start.
“I traditionally have played with Freddie, if he can. We’re hoping he can come back and play again and play Augusta. I’ve played with Mark just about every single year,” Woods said. “It’s generally been those two guys, and those are the two guys I’ve grown up with out here on Tour. We sit next to each other actually at the champions’ dinner, and so we have known each other for a very long time.”
While Woods is no stranger to fielding offers for tips and advice from younger players, especially on a course he knows as well as Augusta National, one top-ranked name continues to stick out among the requests he’s received in recent weeks.
“Just the normal JT (Justin Thomas),” Woods said. “He’s always trying to get some practice rounds in.”
Stenson one clear of loaded leaderboard at Bay Hill
Four of the top 15 players in the world and two men with stellar amateur resumes will do battle Sunday to win Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods sits five back at 7 under par.
Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-12), Bryson DeChambeau (-11), Rory McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9), Ryan Moore (-9), Charley Hoffman (-8), Rickie Fowler (-8), Talor Gooch (-8), Ben An (-8)
What it means: For the second straight day, Stenson (71) will go off in the final pairing with DeChambeau (72), after both players failed to separate themselves from the field in Round 3, shooting a combined 1 under. Stenson really should have a win at Bay Hill by now. He finished in the top-10 four years in a row from 2013-2016, with three top-5s. The closest he came to victory was in 2015, when he lost to Matt Every by one shot after being put on the clock and three-putting the 15th and 16th greens. If he’s finally going to close the deal Sunday, the world No. 15 will need to hold off challenges from three of the top 13 players in the OWGR – No. 5 Rose, No. 7 Fowler and No. 13 McIlroy – and two men who won both the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur – DeChambeau and Moore.
Round of the day: John Huh and Austin Cook both made the 1-over cut on the number and shot 66 Saturday to move into a tie for 18th at 5 under.
Best of the rest: McIlroy, Rose and Jason Day (-5) all signed for 67. McIlroy remains in search of his first worldwide win since he walked away from East Lake with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2016.
Biggest disappointment: Fowler was 11 under for the week but dropped three shots in his last two holes. He failed to get up and down from the front bunker at 17 and then had his ball almost fully bury in the lip of a greenside trap at 18. With only a small portion of the ball visible, Fowler took two to get out of the sand and two-putted his way to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to 2 under for the day and 8 under for the championship.
Shot of the day: Woods’ 210-yard 5-iron from the fairway bunker at the par-5 16th:
Quote of the day: "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first." – Woods