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.
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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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
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.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
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
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."
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.