Pressure Annikas Biggest Opponent

By Associated PressJune 22, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 U.S. WomenCHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- Annika Sorenstam engaged in a friendly match Wednesday at Cherry Hills, trying her best to treat this U.S. Women's Open like any other week instead of such a grand occasion.
 
``Let's go, you've got to make some birdies,'' she teased Lorena Ochoa on the par-3 sixth tee. ``I'm going to have to send you an invoice.''
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has won six of her eight starts this season.
Ochoa pulled her tee shot into the rough. Sorenstam's shot never left the flag.
 
But when she settled into her chair before a room crammed with reporters and television cameras, Sorenstam was reminded that this is no ordinary week. Having already won the first two major championships of the year, Sorenstam has reached a critical juncture in her quest for the Grand Slam.
 
``This is a great challenge for me. This is a true test for me, to see if I can handle it,'' she said. ``This is the challenge I've been looking for, and it's all about controlling your emotions and your shots out there.''
 
Adding to the drama is the historical significance of Cherry Hills.
 
It was on this tree-lined course 45 years ago that Arnold Palmer charged from behind to win the U.S. Open, which inspired him to resurrect the concept of a Grand Slam -- winning all four majors in one year.
 
Palmer never got it done, losing by one shot at the British Open.
 
Mickey Wright, Jack Nicklaus, Pat Bradley and Tiger Woods all got halfway there when circumstances intervened, whether it was their own errant shots, bad weather or great golf by someone else.
 
Bradley recalled a week at the 1986 U.S. Women's Open in which there was a chemical spill near the course that kept players from returning to their hotel, and a tornado. Palmer dealt with torrential rain that canceled a round. Woods ran into raging winds at Muirfield, sending him to an 81.
 
``To win the slam, you have to be able to control yourself,'' Palmer said Wednesday morning from his office in Latrobe, Pa. ``Then there are outside factors you have no control over, that people don't think about. You've just got to hope they work out for you.
 
``Unquestionably, she's got the golf,'' Palmer said. ``As long as she keeps her cool, I think she can do it.''
 
There is little evidence anyone can stop her.
 
Sorenstam built a five-shot lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and won by eight. Two weeks ago the LPGA Championship, she again led by five shots after 54 holes and was never seriously challenged. The best anyone could do was Michelle Wie, a 15-year-old who hits prodigious drives but still isn't old enough to drive a car.
 
Cherry Hills presents a different test.
 
The rough is thicker than anything the women saw at Mission Hills or Bulle Rock, sites of the first two majors. The greens were still relatively soft Wednesday, but the targets are smaller than they seem because of the slope. At 6,749 yards, this is the longest course in Women's Open history.
 
In other words, it's perfect for Sorenstam.
 
``She'll be tough to be beat,'' Laura Davies said. ``I'm sure she was pleased when she saw this for the first time, because it's right up her alley. It favors accuracy and length, and that's her forte. If she can blow away the field, this is the golf course she can do it on.''
 
The greatest challenge might be the pressure.
 
Sorenstam laid out her grand plans a year ago -- she wanted to be the first player, male or female, to win the four professional majors in the same year -- before failing to win the first one.
 
Now that she has won the first two, she has become increasingly aware of the history she can make.
 
``I'm only halfway,'' she said. ``These next two are going to be the toughest two.''
 
Asked later what made the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open next month at Royal Birkdale the toughest two legs of the Grand Slam, she quickly replied, ``Because the pressure is building.''
 
She is certainly no stranger to pressure.
 
There was a time two years ago when Sorenstam wasn't sure she could lift her 4-wood off the ground as she stood on the 10th tee at Colonial, some 10,000 people gathered around to see her become the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
 
In many respects, her missed cut at Colonial prepared her for times like these.
 
The 34-year-old Swede has won 19 of 38 times on the LPGA Tour since Colonial, and five of the last nine majors. She has looked unbeatable at times this year, winning six of her eight starts.
 
But respect and appreciation should not be mistaken for a white flag of surrender.
 
Meg Mallon found the secret to beating Sorenstam last year at the Women's Open, closing with a 65 at the Orchards for a two-shot victory. Juli Inkster got it done three years ago at Prairie Dunes, shooting a 66 in the final round to go from a two-shot deficit to a two-shot victory.
 
``Every player out here is a great player,'' Mallon said. ``They just have to figure out how they're going to play great themselves. That's what I did so well last year. That's how players have to approach it. They can't start playing another player, especially in golf.''
 
Then again, Sorenstam keeps taking her game to new heights.
 
Her golf is robotic at times, an amazing display of fairways and greens. She has practiced with Tiger Woods to put imagination into her short game and adding more distance between herself and those trying to chase her.
 
``She finds her weaknesses and makes them better,'' Mallon said. ``She was good, but she made herself great.''
 
Over the next four days, Sorenstam will find out if she can continue her quest to be simply grand.
 
Related Links:
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    Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

    John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

    Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

    Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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    Gustafson shares stuttering success video

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

    Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

    She did so without stuttering.

    And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

    “I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

    For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

    Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

    Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

    Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

    “If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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    J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Make way for Jin Young Ko.

    The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

    Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

    Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.


    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


    Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

    Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

    “I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

    Ko finished at 14 under overall.

    It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

    Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

    Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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    Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

    It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

    Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

    Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

    ''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

    ''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.


    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


    ''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

    Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

    Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

    ''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

    Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

    Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

    The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.