Poor Start for Sorenstam Ochoa on Track - COPIED

By Associated PressMarch 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa took her first step toward overtaking Annika Sorenstam at No. 1 in the world.
 
Even though her putting wasn't up to her standards, Ochoa hit it close enough Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship to make five birdies and open with a 3-under 69 in tough conditions, leaving her one shot behind Shi Hyun Ahn in the first major of the year.
 
The 25-year-old Mexican star needs a victory this week to become No. 1.
 
Unlike a year ago, when Ochoa tied an LPGA major record with a 62 at Mission Hills, the greens were too firm and the rough too thick to allow for that kind of scoring.
 
And as hard as she tried, defending Karrie Webb couldn't repeat her 18th hole magic.
 
Webb holed a pitching wedge from 116 yards for eagle on the final hole of the fourth round last year to make up a seven-shot deficit, eventually beating Ochoa in a playoff. She was only 82 yards away Thursday, hit a full sand wedge that rode the slope and flirted with going into the hole. It stopped a few inches away.
 
Webb feigned disgust, slamming her sand wedge to the turf with a smile on her face. The tap-in birdie gave her a 70, putting her in a group that included Maria Hjorth of Sweden and Catriona Matthew of Scotland.
 
Sorenstam, meanwhile, struggled.
 
Even after finishing with a birdie, she jammed her putter into the bag with disgust, then stood behind the ninth green with hands on her hips after her worst start at a major in seven years. She opened with a 3-over 75, a score that could have been higher if not for a few par saves.
 
'I'd like to forget this day,' she said.
 
At this rate, Sorenstam might have to forget about that No. 1 ranking.
 
Ahn took the lead on a sun-soaked day in the desert, overcoming some jitters about being in a major and staying true to her plan of not taking her golf so seriously. She made six birdies in her round of 4-under 68.
 
It was a strong round for Ahn, the LPGA rookie of the year in 2004, for Mission Hills was tougher than ever. The course was lengthened by 104 yards to measure 6,673 yards, the rough was thick enough to be a half-stroke penalty and the greens were so firm that Paula Creamer hit a wedge heavy with spin and it took a few hops forward before stopping.
 
It was tough on everyone.
 
Sorenstam's score was her highest in the opening round of a major since she shot 76 at the Kraft Nabisco in 2000. Even more frustrating was that she wasn't sure how it happened.
 
'I felt good. I felt ready. And then I got off to a really terrible start,' she said.
 
Starting on the back nine, the 36-year-old Swede hit her approach stiff on the 12th for a birdie to go 1 under, then split the middle of the 13th fairway and had 123 yards to the hole.
 
She chunked her second shot. Her chip was about 20 feet long and above the hole. And she three-putted for double bogey.
 
That was the start of Sorenstam missing five consecutive greens, and she did well to save par with a 20-foot putt on the 15th and a chip from across the green on the 16th to about 3 feet.
 
'It wasn't anything in particular,' Sorenstam said. 'But I'm not going to let this round ruin the rest of the week. I'm going to get some lunch, hit some balls and this day is forgotten.'
 
Sorenstam played with Creamer, who struggled with the speed on her putts and shot 73.
 
Ahn shot into the lead with three straight birdies around the turn, her best hole at the par-3 eighth with a 5-iron into 12 feet. She hit a gap wedge into 8 feet to close out the front nine, followed with a wedge into 20 feet on the 10th and traded two birdies with two bogeys the rest of the way for a solid start.
 
She has tried to change her attitude this year to have more fun.
 
'I do put pressure on myself, but it's not to the point where I'm coming down hard on myself,' she said. 'I'm taking it lighthearted and having fun with it, so that has changed my game a lot.'
 
And she if hopeful she can learn from her experiences in the majors, especially last year at Bulle Rock.
 
Ahn was one shot out of the going into the final round of the LPGA Championship and came to the last hole needing a birdie to join the playoff. But her approach was long, left and into the water.
 
'My goal was to come through, and I didn't,' she said of her first brush with a major. 'I don't want to make the same mistake.'
 
DIVOTS
While it's not ideal to play a pro-am round the week of a major, there are two pro-ams at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, one of them on the adjacent Palmer Course. That means players only have one day of practice to themselves, which is Monday, and many of them had to travel from Phoenix to get to Mission Hills. 'It would be interesting to see the guys do that before a major,' Inkster said. 'We need to change that.' ... Seven players failed to break 80, including former U.S. Women's Open champion Birdie Kim. ... Meg Mallon, missing only this major to complete the career Grand Slam, is making her '07 debut after recovering from a foot injury in the offseason.
 
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    PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

    The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

    PGA Tour:

    The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

    LPGA:

    We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

    Getty Images

    Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

    By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

    JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

    The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


    Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


    Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

    ''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

    Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

    Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

    Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

    Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

    The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.