Annika Plays Golf - Any Questions

By George WhiteApril 16, 2001, 4:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam plays professional golf.
There ' right away I got a few of you. Tiger Woods may seem like the only one alive who actually does this for a living, but Im here to tell you that women do play golf. And Im not going too quickly, I hope, but Sorenstam is using this season to set some awfully impressive records.
She just won for the fourth straight time the past weekend, coming from so far behind that she wasnt even a speck in the rear-view mirror. Going into the final day of The Office Depot, she was out of it completely, 10 strokes behind. Yes, thats 10 - one and zero. And zero was about what her chances were.
So Annika went out for the final round and was sailing along until she came to the 17th, a 410-yard par 4. She hit a driver and a 7-iron ' and went over the green. Great shades of John Daly! It really was true, and when she bogeyed, she wasnt even a speck anymore.
The last hole is a rarity, a par-3. But she hit the wayward 7-iron again, covering 155 yards, and the ball died 12 feet away. She gritted her teeth and stroked home the putt, and once again became a blip large enough to cause a little concern. The leaders were five groups behind and still had a comfortable lead, but Sorenstam had at least given herself a one-in-a-million chance. No one had ever done it before, come all the way from 10 back to win, but you never know what will happen on a golf course.
After the round, she took care of her media obligations. She sat down for lunch. Then she glanced at the TV. She noticed that leader Pat Hurst was having a rough day. In fact, Sorenstam was now only one shot out of the lead.
Hmmm, something fishy might be going on here. Better forget the rolls and salad, Annika figured, and get back out there on the putting green. You never know what can happen. She left half her lunch and began playing the hunch.
I started putting and getting loose again, she said, hoping that the unthinkable would happen.
Then, they told me to get on the tee.
The person opposing her in the playoff wasnt even Hurst. It was Mi Hyun Kim, who had been in an even more unbelievable position ' 11 shots behind when the day began. Her final-round 65 and Sorenstams 66 were the playoff numbers. And Sorenstam won on the first playoff hole with a par when Kim airmailed the green and couldnt get up-and-down.
I asked for a miracle, said Annika, and it came.
Sorenstam, we thought, had already messed with the history books enough for one year. Good Lord, her 59 was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill! That came three weeks ago, when this four-tournament excellence was still in its second week. That day she set six LPGA records. The following week, she won the LPGAs first major ' the Nabisco Championship ' for win No. 3. Last week came the fourth win in four weeks. And this week she will try to set an LPGA record ' five wins in five consecutive weeks.
Its got to be destiny, she said. I mean, for anyone to come from 10 shots down to win ' and to think that was me. Its unbelievable.
Yes, it is. And to add just a little more of the unreal, this is not a good time to be doing anything in golf if youre name isnt Tiger Woods. This is Tigers time. Tiger has four straight majors and counting. He not only may be the best golfer of all time, but the best athlete. Corporations fall prostrate at his feet, showering dollar bills to prove their worthiness. There isnt time - or newspaper space - for anyone except Tiger in the sport of golf.
And to complicate things for Sorenstam, youve got a Swedish citizen here playing the game with a decidedly reserved personality ' not exactly the ticket for overwhelming success. Sorenstam, with four wins and two seconds in her six tournaments of 2001, has made just a smidgeon over $775,000. Woods, by the way, made about $250,000 more than that, a little over $1 million, with just one victory, the Masters.
Actually, the LPGA hasnt had a superhero since Nancy Knight, nee Nancy Lopez. Why her? Well, for one thing, she was good. Very good. Numbers two, three and four were all the reasons the LPGA prefers its women not be known for ' all regarding sex appeal. It didnt matter that Lopez didnt necessarily encourage it. She had a bubbly personality and she wasnt terribly difficult to glance at, which was all it took for the male species to embrace her as their hero.
Sorenstam would be a hero today if more women were sports fans. Unfortunately most arent, and men are most impressed by someone who wins mens sports. Couple that with the fact that Annika is married ' Lopez was single when she was setting all the records. And Sorenstam seldom is seen on a Wheaties box or hawking new Buicks. What you have, lords and ladies, is a regular old-fashioned Who-Dat?
Sorenstam, it seems, is just Sorenstam. Hopefully, that is good enough. She wont be an icon for womens sports, wont even be an icon for golf the 20 more years that Tiger is around. She is, after all, just Annika. If that isnt good enough to win admiring glances, it surely is good enough to win on the LPGA.
Share your thoughts on Annika and the LPGA here.
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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.