Sorenstam Prepares For Something Grand
Two weeks ago, Sorenstam ventured Down Under and shot 65-65 on the weekend to win the Australian Ladies Masters for the second straight year.
More proof that her game is sharp came Sunday.
Sorenstam was invited to play Augusta National, and one person in attendance said she has never hit the ball better.
The greens had been double-cut that morning.
Gusts were up to 20 mph.
A half-dozen pins were in their traditional location for Sunday at the Masters.
Sorenstam played the tournament tees, which measure 7,290 yards, and posted a tidy 1-over 73.
Her only bogeys were at No. 9 and the par-3 12th, where she hit 7-iron just over the green and missed a 5-footer. Playing the 570-yard eighth hole into the wind, she hit driver, 5-iron and sand wedge to 8 feet for her only birdie
And on the 465-yard, uphill 18th, with a strong left-to-right wind that helped slightly on the approach shot, Sorenstam hit driver and 5-iron to the front of the green and took two putts for par.
Sorenstam plans to return to Augusta National in April, but only to receive the Golf Writers Association of America award as LPGA player of the year.
Unlike 14-year-old Michelle Wie, she is not dreaming of how she can qualify for the Masters.
Sorenstam doesn't even plan to play a regular PGA Tour event, like the Colonial.
Instead, she is preparing for something really grand.
The LPGA Tour season gets under way this week in Tucson, Ariz., although Sorenstam will wait another week before she makes her '04 debut in Phoenix at the Safeway International.
While the Phoenix field is one of the strongest of the year, even that is just a warmup act.
Her year essentially starts at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the year, the first step toward a Grand Slam.
When it comes to goals, that's all Sorenstam has left.
'Everything is focused on the majors,' she said. 'Winning all four in one season is something that has never been done before. But I definitely think it's possible.'
After last year, it's not prudent to bet against her.
Most people thought Sorenstam would flop at the Colonial, where she became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour. Instead, she thrived under the enormous pressure, putted for birdie on every hole and shot a respectable 1-over 71. She followed that with a 74 and missed the cut by four shots.
Most people figured she would get shut out at the Skins Game, but she had a chance to win and eventually wound up second behind Fred Couples, ahead of Phil Mickelson and Mark O'Meara.
Sorenstam has reason to believe the Grand Slam is possible.
She was only two strokes (Nabisco) and one swing (U.S. Women's Open) away from winning all four last year. Sorenstam had to settle for the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open for the career Grand Slam.
Pat Bradley was the only other woman to come close to the Grand Slam, winning three majors in 1986. She tied for fifth, three strokes out of the playoff, at the U.S. Women's Open.
There are other stories to watch on the LPGA Tour this year.
Se Ri Pak has emerged as the second-best player in women's golf. A victory at Nabisco would give the 26-year-old South Korean the career Grand Slam and enough points for the Hall of Fame.
Laura Davies, coming off her 66th victory worldwide at the Australian Women's Open, can also take care of the career slam and the Hall of Fame by winning at Nabisco.
The rookie class includes a player not even old enough to vote. Aree Song, 17, received special permission to compete at Q-school, where she finished fifth. Song made the cut in all six majors she played as an amateur, and finished fifth at the Women's Open last year while paired with Sorenstam.
And then there's Wie, the ninth-grader in Honolulu who shot a 68 in January at the Sony Open, the lowest score ever by a female competing against men. She'll play at least six LPGA events, including the Nabisco.
But the most compelling part of the season is built around one player and one tournament.
Sorenstam set herself up for this pressure when she said at the end of last year, 'It's the four majors that I'm going for next year. Those goals are pretty clear. Other than that, I don't really have any more.'
Tiger Woods wants to win the Grand Slam every year, as did Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer before him. But rarely did they state their intentions so plainly, and so early in the game.
'That was one of her goals last year,' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. 'She didn't articulate it the way she has this year. But I think the fact that she was in the final group (in three of four majors) going into Sunday gave her the opportunity to say, 'I can do this.''
One thing seems certain based on her round at Augusta National.
She'll be ready.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.