Solheim Success Could Mend Annikas Year

By Associated PressSeptember 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Solheim CupHALMSTAD, Sweden -- Even though everyone knows she's been injured, it's still strange to watch a player as good as Annika Sorenstam struggle the way she has in 2007.
It's also strange to hear her talk about the state of her game like this: 'I've been able to play but it just hasn't been the way I know I can.'
Helen Alfredsson
European captain Helen Alfredsson watches her team Wednesday. (Getty Images)
She has reason to believe things could change this week at the Solheim Cup. Heading into the match-play contest between the best in Europe and the United States, Sorenstam says her bad back and neck, which forced her to miss two months earlier this year, are as good as they've felt in the last 18 months.
'I wish I could say I'm back to 100 percent,' she said Wednesday, two days before the event begins with alternate-shot matches at Halmstad Golf Club on the southwest coast of Sweden. 'I'm not there yet, but it's certainly going in the right direction.'
The 'right direction' means that she's able to swing the club without it feeling completely foreign, that she's able to work on making specific shots instead of merely concentrating on getting the club into position at the top. And that she's not in pain.
This all stems from a bulging disk in her back and a ruptured disk in her neck that flared up last year, around the time of the U.S. Open, and got so bad earlier this year that she had to take time off.
Sorenstam is winless this year, in danger of completing her first full season on tour since 1994, when she was a rookie, without a victory. Maybe not that stunning even for a top-caliber player, unless you consider that Sorenstam has 84 career victories and won more than 41 percent of her starts between 2001 and 2005. She has also lost the top spot in the rankings to Lorena Ochoa.
'There's no reason to be upset and angry,' Sorenstam insists.
Indeed, this has not been a completely lost year.
She has opened her new golf academy, a 5,400-square-foot facility near Orlando that she says is designed to share her passion for golf and fitness with players around the world.
And she got engaged to Mike McGee, a former agent who now works as Sorenstam's business manager.
All that has put her struggles on the golf course in perspective.
'At times it was tough and kind of like, `Why is this happening?'' Sorenstam said. 'But it's been a great year overall. Maybe not so well on the golf course, but everything around what I do has been fabulous. I have every reason to smile.'
Even though the visiting team hasn't won the Solheim Cup since 1996, when this year's captain, Betsy King, led the Americans to an upset in Wales, the Europeans are about a 3-2 underdog according to several British oddsmakers.
The reason is the depth of the U.S. lineup. The United States not only has Juli Inkster, a six-time Solheim veteran, but also U.S. Open winner Cristie Kerr, Nabisco winner Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and, overall, eight of the 25 players in the world rankings.
The Europeans are solid at the top -- with Suzann Pettersen, Sophie Gustafson and Laura Davies -- but there is a feeling they'll need all they can get out of Sorenstam. Her ability to play in all five matches -- as she's done every year but one since the current format was adapted in 1996 -- is in the air.
'If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said `No,'' Sorenstam said. 'It's different once you get here, with the adrenaline pumping, and I also feel better now.'
She said captain Helen Alfredsson has not yet asked her what she wants to do and figures she'll play at least the first three matches, then see how she feels before deciding on the fourth one.
'Obviously, we know the circumstances, but I think she feels in very good shape right now,' Alfredsson said. 'I have no idea today what the pairing is going to be. Well, I have a little bit, but I'm not going to tell you.'
Pairings for the first matches will be released Thursday afternoon.
Regardless of how many matches Sorenstam plays this week, all signs for her are pointing in the right direction. In her last tournament, the State Farm Classic over Labor Day weekend, Sorenstam was in contention through the end. She shot 67 on Sunday to finish in third place, three strokes behind winner Sherri Steinhauer, who is here this week on the American team.
Whoever draws Sorenstam in these match-play constests figures to have her work cut out.
'It's hard to lay off and come back and be perfect,' Inkster said. 'It just doesn't work like that. I'd say right now, Lorena's ranked No. 1 and she deserves it, but Annika's not far behind. You can kind of see it coming together.'
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.