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.
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.