Sorenstam Streaking into History
She didnt win.
That seems hard to fathom these days because Sorenstam hasnt lost since. The following week in Japan, she won the Mizuno Classic by nine shots to start a streak that has reached five consecutive victories, matching the LPGA Tour record set by Nancy Lopez in 1978.
The biggest difference is that Sorenstam has built her streak over six months; Lopez did it in six weeks.
Sorenstam hasnt even played in five weeks, taking the longest break of her season after winning her eighth career major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Next up is the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill this week, and a chance to make history with her sixth win in a row.
One in a row is a good run, deadpanned Juli Inkster. I cant imagine five in a row.
Even more difficult is imagining anyone capable of beating her.
Sorenstams run is similar to what Tiger Woods did at the end of the 1999 season and the start of 2000, when he won six straight PGA Tour events and made everyone wonder'ever so briefly'whether Byron Nelsons record of 11 straight wins in 1945 really was out of reach.
It was'at least by a man.
Sorenstam simply looks unstoppable.
She doesnt do anything bad, Inkster said. Its not like shes overpowering. If she gets in trouble, she doesnt knock it around or over the trees. She gets it back in the fairway and gets on the green. She knows shes going to make five or six birdies. And if she shoots 1 or 2 under, she knows shes going to have that round at 5 or 6 under. She knows what she wants to do on the golf course.
That alone might explain why Sorenstam has never appeared so calm and confident.
She has become the most dominant player in golf, with 28 victories and five majors in her last 61 starts. Woods won 19 times in 38 starts on the PGA Tour from 1999 to 2001, five of those majors. He separated himself so much from his peers that it raised two questions that now must be asked of Sorenstam.
Is she that good?
Or is the competition that bad?
Its a bit of both, much like it was with him, said Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer who now works as a TV analyst. I thought at one time when he was so good, these players were going to have to tag-team him; if one wasnt there every week, the other had to be. And I think thats true in womens golf.
She is good to the point that four or five of the next best players have to tag-team here and not make it easy for her, not make it where she wins by eight.
But who are they?
The next two players on the LPGA money list, Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr, have not won this year, and both have lost final-round leads to Sorenstam. Kerr shot a 75 on the final day in Mexico; Ochoa had a four-shot lead with three holes in Phoenix and wound up losing in a playoff.
Inkster, 44, overcame a two-shot deficit against Sorenstam to beat her in the 2002 U.S. Womens Open, but she failed to win last year for the first time since 1996. Meg Mallon stared down Sorenstam to win the Womens Open last year, but she is 42 and has struggled early in the season.
Karrie Webb is on a slow road of swing changes. Grace Park'the last player to beat Sorenstam'is searching for consistency and dealing with injury. Se Ri Pak appears lost. Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie are still in high school.
Its not that were bad, Inkster said. Were just not as consistent as her. We dont get things done easily.
Woods winning streak on the PGA Tour ended at Torrey Pines, and then he created an even wider gap by winning four consecutive majors, two of them runaways.
That might be where Sorenstam is headed.
She has a swing that repeats itself better than anyone in golf.
She has gained power without losing accuracy. She has played her last 43 rounds at par or better. And with 59 career victories, the 34-year-old Swede now can aim at Kathy Whitworths record of 88 career victories. Sorenstam is hungrier than ever.
For now, the comparisons lie with Lopez.
Rankin was around for both streaks'as a player in 1978, as a TV analyst in 2005.
Lopez received more attention, perhaps because she was only 21 and loaded with charisma.
It was magical, Rankin said. I remember one par 5 at the LPGA Championship when Nancys third shot was a screaming blade over the green and into weeds up to her knees, and she holed it from there. Thats how that streak was going. Everyone was just shaking their head.
Now, they shake their head at this streak for a different reason. Annika is deadly precision.
The streak is important, for no other reason than Sorenstam wants to win every time she plays. But topping the list is the Grand Slam, and she already took care of the first leg by winning Nabisco by eight shots.
If the winning streak were more important, she would not have taken five weeks off. Instead, she returns at a time when she can allow her game to peak for the LPGA Championship on June 9-12, followed by the U.S. Womens Open two weeks after that.
And its not unreasonable to believe the streak might be going strong through the majors.
Sorenstam is that good.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.
The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
The statement reads:
The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.
The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.
The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.
The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.
Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins
Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.
Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.
It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.
Goodbye and good riddance.
The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.
“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.
The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.
Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.
Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.
But at what cost?
The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.
The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.
We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.
In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.
We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.
Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.
We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.
“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.
We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.
Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.
There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.
This is good governance.
And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.
This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.
We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.
Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.
Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.
Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”