Sorenstam set for LPGA finale

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
2006 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ' Annika Sorenstam typically asks for no more than 10 tournament passes in a normal week, enough to accommodate close friends and family.
 
This is not a normal week.
 
Barring a change of heart, the ADT Championship this weekend will be Sorenstams farewell to the LPGA.
 
So with more than 50 friends and family in tow, some of whom flew in from Sweden and around the globe, Sorenstam is set to tee it up Thursday for the final LPGA tournament before she steps away.
 
She refuses to call it retirement ' the r-word, as she puts it ' and many around the tour figure shell be back.
 
Just not in 2009. The 38-year-old plans to get married, start a family and tend to her array of business interests, including designing golf courses.
 
Normally, Im this cold Swede just going down the fairways, Sorenstam said. Its been very different. But Ive enjoyed it. Its been a great year in so many ways. Ive had a chance to summarize my career and had a chance to share my memories with a lot of fans.
 
After 72 LPGA wins, 10 major championships, a Hall of Fame enshrinement, more than $22 million in prize money, her own academy, a round of 59 and one memorable matchup against the men of the PGA Tour, Sorenstam has decided the time is right for a new chapter.
 
She made the announcement in May, and the last six months have been a whirlwind goodbye tour.
 
I think everybody has tried to talk Annika out of retiring, LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said. At the same time, youre pulled by the fact shes a young woman who knows very much what she wants, and she has priorities. I think youve got to admire her and respect her for that. Well miss her very much.
 
Her first tournament on the LPGA was the U.S. Womens Open in 1992, when she played as an amateur. Back then, few knew who she was. Some of the papers covering that tournament referred to her as Sorenstan, while others said Anika.
 
But along the way, Annika became a one-name brand, just like Tiger and Jack and Arnie.
 
Maybe she wont get the itch to play again, said Morgan Pressel, the 20-year-old who grew up emulating Sorenstams game a bit. But I would think that somebody as competitive as she is would.
 
Sorenstams first LPGA round started in a downpour, which seemed fitting. She took the game by storm.
 
That was July 23, 1992, when torrential downpours flooded the fairways at Oakmont. First-round play was delayed for much of the day, and a young Swede waited hours to take her first swing in an LPGA event.
 
Honestly, at that point, there was nothing special about her, said Kelly Skalicky, one of Sorenstams playing partners that humid afternoon. So she obviously did something right.
 
Over the next 16 years, Sorenstam did almost everything right.
 
An eight-time LPGA Player of the Year, Sorenstam dominated the game like almost none other. Shes the only woman to shoot 59 in a competitive round, is one of six to achieve the womens career Grand Slam, and became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour when she played the Colonial in 2003 ' missing the cut, but that hardly mattered.
 
Personally, I think shell be back in a couple of years, 2007 U.S. Womens Open champion Cristie Kerr said. But thats just me and my hopes that we dont lose one of the best things thats ever happened to womens golf.
 
Sorenstams presence in the Oakmont field was so unremarkable that Michelle Murphy ' now the womens golf coach at Portland ' had no idea she was even in the tournament.
 
Which is strange, since Murphy was in Sorenstams first- and second-round threesome that week.
 
Thats right: She had an inside-the-ropes view at the start of golf history, and it slipped her mind.
 
It was 1992, a long time ago, and I just remember she was a friend of my sisters, Murphy said. I dont remember playing with her that week at all. It was a long time ago. For golf, I dont think this is a sad week. Annika is not going to disappear. Im excited to see what shes going to do with the next part of her life.
 
Skalicky, now a lawyer in Manhattan who hasnt played golf in 15 years, is equally curious.
 
Because she was so young, I never would have thought she would dominate the way she did, Skalicky said. Shell do nothing but promote the game from here and hopefully another player comes along to build the tour further up. There were a lot of forerunners before her also, and she carried the torch.
 
Now, its time to pass that torch.
 
Sorenstam says she can step away knowing the LPGA will survive without her.
 
Lorena Ochoa has taken over as the worlds No. 1 player, theres a growing group of international players quickly ascending the games ladder, and Sorenstam is convinced the womens game is stronger than when she arrived.
 
All that remains, she hopes, is four more rounds ' capped by a $1 million first-prize payday Sunday afternoon.
 
Its a special week in many ways, Sorenstam said. I must admit, I have some mixed emotions. Im sad that its coming to an end, but its my decision, and when I decide to do something I stick with it. And Im very excited about the future as well.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    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."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    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.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    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.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    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. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “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.