Sorenstam Launches Annika Academy
Sorenstam opened her first 'Annika Academy,' a 5,400-square-foot teaching facility at Ginn Reunion Resort modeled after the golf and fitness programs that have led her to 10 majors and more than 80 victories worldwide.
'Our goal is to inspire our guests,' Sorenstam said. 'I will get a chance to share my passion for golf and for fitness with all golfers, of all ages, of all skill levels, all around the world.'
Sorenstam gave a tour and some instruction to Darius Rucker, lead singer of 'Hootie and the Blowfish.'
Her own golf is on hold. Sorenstam learned last week that she has a ruptured disk and herniated disk in her back and will miss at least a month, perhaps more from the LPGA Tour.
Mark Steinberg, her agent at IMG, said doctors told Sorenstam she likely will not need surgery, and rehabilitation over 10 to 14 days would give them a better idea when she might be able to return.
'I thought it was something muscular and I was going to be OK,' said Sorenstam, who wore a neck brace during a brief interview. 'My doctor was telling me about my injury and I said, 'But I'm playing tomorrow. What am I going to do?' And he looked at me and said, 'You're not playing.' That's when it hit me.
'Nothing stops me, and that's the problem,' she said. 'I'm just go, go, go. I need somebody to tell me to stop. And here I am.'
Lately, Sorenstam has divided her time between competition and business, and she has found herself more excited by the business prospects of creating the 'Annika' brand, which starts with the academy.
The academy includes a modern fitness room with free weights and state-of-the-art cardio machines, and two large hitting booths equipped with video analysis and Callaway Golf club fitting. It also has a driving range, putting green and short-game area.
Sorenstam said she will be at the academy at least a dozen times a year, including five times as part of the 'Soren-Slam Package' that includes a round of golf with her. The cost for that three-day program is $12,000 and already is sold out for this year.
When she is not at the academy, she will be sharing her coaches -- Henri Reis (swing) and Kai Fusser (fitness), along with her sister, Charlotta, who will be one of instructors.
Sorenstam gave a clinic to kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and to Rucker, handling the microphone with ease as she offered instruction and answered questions. It was quite a transformation for the shy, Swedish girl whose only goal was to make it to the LPGA Tour, and who purposely lost tournaments as an amateur because she was afraid of making a speech.
'It's impossible to think 12 years ago she could be doing this,' Steinberg said. 'Her mind wouldn't have gone here. She has completely come into her own. Nobody told her how to do this.'
Sorenstam said she thought of an academy about five years, about the time she began to establish herself as the dominant player of her generation. She took fitness to a new level for women's golf as she prepared to play in the Colonial on the PGA Tour in 2003. Since then, she has piled up enough majors for the career Grand Slam and enough victories to challenge Kathy Whitworth's record of 88 on the LPGA Tour. Sorenstam is at 69, although getting 20 more depends on her back.
The academy is the first step in building her 'Annika' brand, which she hopes will represent traits of her as a player.
'You come here, and you get a sense it's me,' she said. 'Obviously, the competition took me here, and that's the foundation, which I would say is quite solid. I like to stand for those attributes -- consistency, inspiration, class. All those should reflect in everything I do.'
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.