Sorenstam Faces Her Stiffest Challenge

By Associated PressJune 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- The gradual slide from the top of women's golf began at the major championship that brought Annika Sorenstam so much satisfaction.
 
She salvaged her worst season of this decade last year at the U.S. Women's Open, a week where everything went right. The thick fog that wiped out the first round at Newport Country Club gave her an extra day to refine her swing. Her stamina carried her through 36 holes on Sunday, and a four-shot victory in the 18-hole playoff.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam talks to the press Tuesday at Pine Needles. (Getty Images)
That also was when she first felt slight soreness in her neck, which was nothing more than a nuisance at the time. It turned into much more than that. Only nine months later did Sorenstam realize she had a bulging disk in her back and a ruptured disk in her neck, knocking her out of competition for two months.
 
'It's funny how things come together one way or another,' Sorenstam said Tuesday.
 
What she craves now is for everything to fall back into place. The U.S. Women's Open is her third tournament back after recovering from her injuries, and already the world she once ruled has changed so much.
 
Lorena Ochoa is the No. 1 player in women's golf, expanding her lead in the ranking by winning last week in a playoff. Morgan Pressel became the youngest major champion in LPGA history when the 18-year-old captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The other major went to Suzann Pettersen, a dynamic Norwegian and disciple of the 'Vision 54' concept under which Sorenstam matured into a star.
 
There are two dozen teenagers at Pine Needles, and that doesn't include 12-year-old Alexis Thompson, the youngest qualifier ever.
 
For Sorenstam, the challenge has rarely been this severe -- and just from the competition.
 
'My challenges are that I have not been 100 percent for a while, and it's been tough to get motivated,' she said. 'I'm looking forward to getting my motivation back. I'm excited to be 100 percent again, so I can be up there and get back to it. It just hasn't been that way the last few months, and maybe part of last year.'
 
She doesn't look at Ochoa, still missing a major to validate her role as No. 1, rather to herself. There is a part of Sorenstam that believes she decides who's the best, and it starts with her getting healthy.
 
It helped slightly that her last form of competition, though unofficial, came 10 days ago when she beat Ochoa on the fourth extra hole to win a skins game exhibition.
 
But the U.S. Women's Open is where history means more than money. Sorenstam has a chance this week to join Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls as the only four-time winners of the most prestigious event in women's golf.
 
And it helps being back at Pine Needles.
 
This is the course where Sorenstam won her second U.S. Women's Open title in 1996 with a display of precision that defines her career. She missed only five fairways over four rounds, winning by five shots.
 
The course has been lengthened since 2001, when Karrie Webb won by eight shots at the peak of her rivalry with Sorenstam. It now measures 6,664 yards as a par 71, the longest championship course at sea level. Sorenstam worked on her chipping and putting Monday, and her practice round Tuesday was interrupted by thunderstorms.
 
But the place brings back good memories, good vibes.
 
'I have confidence just being inside the ropes,' she said. 'That's where I like to be, that's where I think I belong. I have confidence to go ahead and play again, just knowing that I'm healthy, and knowing that my game is coming around. It's great to be the defending champion. This tournament has always meant the most to me. This is the event that I always get geared up for.'
 
Sorenstam said she has been without pain for the last several weeks, although she still struggles to trust herself enough to attack every shot. She has increased her practice sessions, now hitting as many balls as she needs.
 
'If I can hit it where my caddie tells me, I'm not so worried,' she said.
 
This is the longest Sorenstam has gone without a victory to start a season. Although the focus ranges from Ochoa going after her first major to Thompson being the youngest qualifier to 17-year-old Michelle Wie trying to break par for the first time in nearly a year, Sorenstam is lurking.
 
'You can never count Annika out,' Pressel said. 'She's an amazing competitor. She practices really hard. She wants to be out here, and she wants to be playing well. I'm not sure the status of her injury and how she's feeling, but I'm sure she'll have a good showing.'
 
Sorenstam has 10 majors, still five from the record held by Patty Berg. She also is stuck on 69 tour victories, and it looks unlikely she can reach the 88 won by Kathy Whitworth.
 
'With the competition so tough and me starting to think about other things, I'm not sure that will happen,' Sorenstam said. 'Right now, I'm just happy to be back here. I'm focusing on this week, and we'll see how it goes.'
 
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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.