Sorenstam AP Female Athlete of Year
The Swedish golf star turned a season that had all the trappings of a struggle into another year of superlatives, becoming the first woman in 19 years to capture the first two legs of the Grand Slam, winning 10 times on the LPGA Tour and twice putting the teenagers in their place.
No one is close to her in women's golf.
And she was a landslide winner as the AP Female Athlete of the Year, making Sorenstam the first golfer since Zaharias (1945-47) to win the award three straight years.
'I am flattered and honored to be chosen by so many different editors,' said Sorenstam, who received 47 of 81 votes cast by AP newspaper and broadcast members.
Danica Patrick, the rookie race car driver whose fourth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 was the best ever by a female, received 17 votes. Maria Sharapova got five votes for becoming the first Russian-born tennis player to reach No. 1, while Wimbledon champ Venus Williams and 16-year-old golfer Michelle Wie each got four votes.
Lance Armstrong was voted Male Athlete of the Year for the fourth straight year.
Zaharias won the AP Female Athlete award six times in her career, one of those years in track. As badly as Sorenstam has beaten up on her competition this decade, maybe it's time for her to try another sport.
'When Annika comes to play, Annika comes to win,' Lorie Kane said.
It wasn't as easy as it might have looked.
Before she played in her first tournament, Sorenstam filed for divorce from her husband of eight years, a distraction that lingered until it was finalized in August. But she found refuge inside the ropes, adding a few more tournaments than usual, and winning at an alarming rate.
'Golf has been my savior, there's no doubt about that,' she said.
Sorenstam won the first three tournaments, giving her five straight LPGA Tour victories dating to the end of 2004 to match the record set by Nancy Lopez. And when that streak ended, another began at the majors.
She lapped the field at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, winning by eight shots. She easily won the next major, the LPGA Championship, by three shots over Wie. At the time, Sorenstam had won six of her eight tournaments, and she looked unbeatable.
But her hopes of a Grand Slam evaporated in the mile-high air of Denver when Sorenstam had a three-putt bogey and a four-putt double bogey in a span of four holes in the third round. The letdown was obvious as Sorenstam went into a mini-slump during the summer, although that didn't last long.
'This year, I won some big ones,' she said. 'Maybe in the summer, I was a little shaky at times. But you know, I dug deeper and I came back when I needed to. I'm very proud of that.'
Despite unparalleled success, Sorenstam needed to deliver a few reminders of who rules women's golf.
She was an afterthought at the Samsung World Championship when Wie made her professional debut. With all eyes on 6-foot teen from Hawaii, Sorenstam opened with a 64 and wound up winning by eight shots.
'I want to play well when everyone is talking about someone else,' she said. 'I'm very competitive.'
Then at the season-ending ADT Championship, 19-year-old rookie Paula Creamer challenged Sorenstam on a drop and then challenged her integrity. Sorenstam responded by zipping by the teenager over the next three days, and closing out the year with her 10th victory.
Sorenstam's game is more sound than it is spectacular, but it is no less intimidating. Her scoring average (69.33) was 1 1/2 strokes better than anyone else. While she had 10 victories, no one else had more than two. She shot under par 74 percent of the time; the next best was 55 percent.
Sorenstam and Zaharias first were mentioned together two years ago, when Sorenstam played at the Colonial and became the first woman to compete on the PGA Tour since Zaharias in 1945.
That was the first year the 35-year-old Swede won the AP Female Athlete award, and while Sorenstam won two majors and completed the career Grand Slam that season, it seemed as though she would forever be associated with testing herself against the men.
That's no longer the case.
Sorenstam is dominating golf far more than Tiger Woods has on the PGA Tour. Among the many records she set this year was becoming the first LPGA Tour player to sweep the major awards five straight years -- player of the year, money title and Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
'I believe people have a better overall feeling for who I am,' she said. 'I think they accept me and my competitive nature, after seeing me at Colonial. I am always trying to find different ways to take my game to a new level.'
Having flirted with the idea of early retirement, Sorenstam now has won 43 times in the last five years, and her 66 career victories have put her in range of a record few people thought would ever be touched -- the 88 career victories by Kathy Whitworth.
The question now is how far she can go.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.