Sorenstam Hopes for Another Special Year

By Associated PressMarch 19, 2003, 5:00 pm
PHOENIX -- Annika Sorenstam is playing the Colonial this year because she wants to see if she can compete against men. Then again, maybe she was just getting bored beating her fellow LPGA Tour players.
Sorenstam returns Thursday to the tour she has dominated the last two years, beginning what could be a historic season on a course where she already made history by shooting a 59.
Coming off a year in which she won nearly half the time she teed it up, Sorenstam has not only 11 titles to defend but also the pressure of becoming the first woman to play on the PGA Tour in 58 years.
If Sorenstam is a bit unnerved about the attention her quest is getting, she doesn't show it. If anything, she seems to crave a challenge she believes will only make her better.
'This, first of all, is a test for me. I want to see how good my game is against the best guys in the world and on a course I have chosen I think will fit my game,' Sorenstam said. 'It's going to give me feedback what I need to work on and how do I take my game to the next level.'
That kind of talk might be upsetting to other LPGA players here this week for the Safeway Ping tournament, the second tournament of the year.
Australian Wendy Doolan won in Sorenstam's absence last week in Tucson. But if Sorenstam manages to get any better, Doolan and the other players will find second-place money beginning to look awfully good.
'Annika is simply exceptional,' Laura Davies said.
Sorenstam is starting a week later than most players, using the time to get in a weekend round with Tiger Woods and getting to know the Colonial course she will play in late May.
With the increased media coverage, though, it almost seems like opening day for both Sorenstam and the LPGA.
'There's no question her decision to play at Colonial will bring a greater awareness and more fans to the LPGA,' commissioner Ty Votaw said. 'We win on this, no question about it. I've conveyed that to the players.'
Indeed, Votaw pulled out a pile of press clippings at Monday's annual player meeting to convey to them just how much Sorenstam's plan to play Colonial is helping get the LPGA some much needed publicity.
At the meeting, Votaw told players they should back Sorenstam's quest.
'I just encouraged the players to do everything they can to be positive and supportive of her decision,' he said. 'There is a much greater upside for the LPGA than any downside.'
Sorenstam's dominance of the tour last year seemed to help the LPGA, which is in the second year of a five-year building plan that began with the trimming of some tournaments.
Attendance was up 12 percent last year and television viewers increased 20 percent, numbers that players hope will result in increases over the average purse of $1.27 million.
'Any publicity is good publicity and she's definitely going to get that,' Doolan said.
Sorenstam doesn't want her decision to play in Colonial to overshadow the eight LPGA tour events before the men's tournament. She will play in six of them, and said she has gotten nothing but support from her fellow players.
Among those supporters is former tour star Nancy Lopez, who called Sorenstam to wish her luck and said she wished she had gotten a chance to play in a PGA Tour event.
'That means a lot to me when players, especially of her caliber, call me and wish me good luck,' Sorenstam said. 'I feel like the tour is totally behind me and I think they all know that I'm going to try to do the best I can.'
Sorenstam couldn't do much better that she did on the LPGA tour last year, where she won 11 times in 23 starts and shattered the LPGA season scoring average with a 68.70.
One of her few disappoints actually came here at the Moon Valley Country Club, where she blew a five-shot final-round lead and lost to Rachel Teske in a playoff
Of course, this is also the same place where she became the first woman to shoot a 59 in competition on her way to a win two years ago, so she has some fond memories to look back on.
'It's a special place for me in many ways,' Sorenstam said. 'So it feels like a good place to start.'
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”