Sorenstam eagles the last for tie in Lexus Cup

By Associated PressNovember 29, 2008, 5:00 pm
SINGAPORE ' Annika Sorenstam isnt quite finished.
 
Playing her second-to-last event before retiring, the Swedish star holed a 45-foot pitch for eagle on the par-5 18th hole to give herself and Suzann Pettersen a 1-up victory over Inbee Park and Eun Hee Ji on Saturday in the Lexus Cup.
 
The timing was perfect, Sorenstam said. Suzann played extraordinarily well. I was happy to have a chance to help on the last hole.
 
With the comeback victory in the opening best-ball match at Singapore Island Country Club, Sorenstam and Pettersen helped the International team match two-time defending champion Asia at six points entering the closing 12 singles matches.
 
Sorenstam, set to end her Hall of Fame career next week in the Ladies European Tours Dubai Ladies Masters, is the International teams playing captain.
 
Its amazing how close it really is, Sorenstam said. A lot of matches went to the 18th hole. The golf has been spectacular. You have to make birdies to win out here. Its been a great day and hopefully we can continue the momentum tomorrow. I wouldnt be surprised to see it come to the 18th hole.
 
On Sunday, Sorenstam will play Asian captain Se Ri Pak in the opening match, the first between the longtime stars.
 
Its funny, you think all these years weve been out together, weve never been out head-to-head, Sorenstam said. Im looking forward to it.
 
Pettersen won the 12th and 13th holes to even the match. Ji took the 14th, and Pettersen countered on 15. Park restored Asias 1-up lead on 16, but Pettersen tied it again with a birdie on 17. On 18, Sorenstam holed out from the rough with a 54-degree wedge after her 5-wood approach sailed right and deflected off a grandstand.
 
Pettersen, set to play LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng in the third match Sunday, had eight birdies, while Sorenstam had just one birdie and the eagle.
 
I got it going out there, Pettersen said. Having Annika on your side helps me to be a bit more aggressive and I had the putter hot out there today. You got to grind so hard, every putt. Great finish to a great match. Today was a lot of good energy between me and Annika. We played a lot together and have a lot of good memories and she just keeps pulling off these great shots when it really matters.
 
In the second match, Solheim Cup rivals Cristie Kerr and Helen Alfredsson teamed to beat Pak and Seon Hwa Lee 2-up.
 
We were pretty fired up, Alfredsson said. We knew it was do or die, so we got it pretty close and just tried to make some birdies. Its nice when you do it.
 
The loss was Lees first in eight matches in three appearances in the event. On Sunday, shell face Angela Stanford in the final match.
 
I played not too good today, Lee said. I still have jet-lag and my condition is not good. Se Ri played well, but I did not help out there today.
 
After Asia swept the third, fourth and fifth matches to take a 6-5 lead, the Australian duo of Katherine Hull and Nikki Campbell left the event tied for the second straight day, beating Tseng and Namika Omata 1-up.
 
Its great to have the support and the Aussie calls were pretty appropriate, Campbell said. I am looking forward to tomorrow, but disappointed I dont have Katherine to carry me along.
 
The Asian teams of Jeong Jang-Na Yeon Choi, Candie Kung-Mayumi Shimomura and Sarah Lee-Song Hee Kim won their matches. Jang and Choi edged Paula Creamer and Nicole Castrale 1-up, Kung and Shimomura beat Stanford and Natalie Gulbis 4 and 3, and Sarah Lee and Song Hee Kim topped Karen Stupples and Christina Kim 4 and 2.
 
We were both so nervous, Jang said. We were watching every single score and that was making us more nervous.
 
Asia won 15-9 last year at The Vines in Perth, Australia, for its second straight victory. The International team won the inaugural matches 16-8 in 2005 at Tenah Merah in Singapore, and Asia won 12 1/2 -11 1/2 at Tenah Merah in 2006.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.