Annika and the Amazing 88 - COPIED

By George WhiteMarch 13, 2006, 5:00 pm
July 10, 1994 nearly 12 years ago, Annika Sorenstam last missed a cut in a non-major. She was a rookie then at a tournament in Toledo, Ohio, and had just missed three cuts in succession, failing in four of her first nine events.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is just 22 wins away from tying the all-time wins mark on the LPGA Tour.
Now its March of 2006. Annika, now 35, has become perhaps the greatest female golfer in history. Her LPGA sisters have already begun their campaign, having gone to Hawaii for a couple of tournaments. Sorenstam, who plays only about 20 tournaments a year, didnt join them as a pair of South Koreans won the opening two events. But now after rubbing the sleep from her eyes and yawning a couple of times, shes ready for 2006. Games over, gals.
It may be of interest to note that the last four years, Annika has won her first time out in three of those. Last year, she won the MasterCard Classic in Mexico City in her first tournament, which is where she begins again this season. She hasnt played an official event since she won the ADT Championship the middle of November, nearly four months ago. But rest assured that she is ready.
Last year, after waiting more than three months between her last event of 2004 and the MasterCard which started her 2005 season, she was three shots behind Cristie Kerr beginning the final round. She parred the first hole Sunday, but then she just shifted gears and blew the field away. Annika birdied five consecutive holes beginning with the second and had the lead by herself midway though the front nine. She put it on cruise and won by three ' case closed.
I wanted everybody to know that Im ready to play and ready to go, she said simply. And in case there was any doubt of her dominance, she also won the next two events, six of the first eight.
She still makes rumbles as though she may quit at any time, though they arent nearly as pronounced as they were three or four years ago before her marriage ended. That is because she has another reason to keep playing now. She has averaged better than eight wins a season the past five years and suddenly has emerged as a genuine threat to beat Kathy Whitworths all-time record of 88 victories.
Last year was the first time Annika even considered that she might one day topple the record. But 10 wins in 2005 brought it squarely into focus. Whitworth believes it will happen. 'There's no doubt, I think that she has every opportunity and every chance to break my record, and win more than that, said Whitworth. If she does, more power to her. I think that's just great. Records are made to be broken.'
And Sorenstam has at last conceded that it just might be possible.
'I'm still 22 (wins) away,' said Sorenstam after her final victory in 2005. 'But then again, I'm on my way. I'm going to come out next year and see what happens.'
Sixty-six ' thats her number of wins as this year begins. Eight wins a year ' thats 24 if she can continue mowing them down in the same regularity. She would be 38 then - not old for an athlete who has kept herself in amazing shape over the last few years. But with more and more top young players ' the Paula Creamers, the Michelle Wies, the Morgan Pressels, the Lorena Ochoas and the overwhelming number of impressive young Asians ' there is certainly no guarantee Sorenstam can continue to win eight per year for three years.
Whitworth, though, won 16 more times after she reached 35. And it seems entirely logical that Annika, if she so desires, can get the record. There is no doubt in my mind that she could win tournaments well into her 40s, 10 years from now. Whitworth won the final time at age 46.
The X factor, though, is will she want to keep playing? She has a new romance now. And there are numerous other interests which occupy her time. At times she yearns for the life of a private citizen, to put on jeans and a baggy t-shirt and do whatever, whenever she wants. Someday ' and not even she knows for sure ' that will be more important than living in the harsh light of public life.
Of course I think about that a little bit, she admitted toward the end of last season. I mean, I think I've said many times, as long as I enjoy the game and as long as I feel motivated to go out and practice every day, then that's something I want to continue to do.
But I have other interests outside of the golf course. And of course one day I'd like to pursue some of those interests. Hopefully it's going to be around golf because I love the game so much. But I think it's very tough to stay on this competitive level for so long. It takes a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of stress on your body, a lot of travel. And one day I'd like to try something else.
Does it sound like she isnt quite sure what she will do? It does. But then, she never has gotten within shouting distance of Whitworths record before. It no longer is just a dream, its a definite reality. I say she wont retire for at least three more years. And if shes within five or six of the record at the end of that time ' if she just wins, say, five a year - I think shell stay. And, I believe that she will continue playing until she gets the record.
Annika does have a great sense of the history of the game and her role in it. I cant believe she would walk away from it while she is within touching distance of something as unattainable as the record of Kathy Whitworth. There may never again be anyone in history who has a chance to set a new mark.
Now is the time, and Annika is the person.
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Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1