Annika Primed to Give Receive Golf Lessons

By George WhiteNovember 25, 2004, 5:00 pm
What should we be watching for when Annika Sorenstam plays against the men this weekend? Will she drive the ball like Adam Scott? Putt like Tiger Woods? Work the ball like Fred Couples?
No, no and no. She will play like Annika Sorenstam ' period. She hopes that will be good enough to win a skin or two at the Merrill Lynch Skins Game. The sneaking suspicion if that she will do much better than that.
She was good enough to crank out 10 wins around the world this year. She has played with the men several times before ' at Colonial, at the Skins last year, in an interclub match in Orlando earlier this year, at the ADT Skills Challenge last Monday. She has practiced with Woods in Orlando on occasion. So the concept is definitely not foreign to her.
What she says she wants to do is keep comparing her game with the men ' who are, by their biological differences alone, the biggest bombers in the world. And the one area where brute strength is not required is in the short game ' chips, pitches, little lobs around the green, blasting from the bunkers.
I mean, I cannot tell you how many shots I have saved the last year and a half thanks to my practice with the guys and at Colonial, Sorenstam said.
I am chipping very differently, using a lob wedge now around the greens a lot more than I used to. I can be more aggressive. I have improved my chipping so much and I think that is one of the keys or the strength this year to my success is my chipping. I am making up-and-downs. My bunker game has improved to do it more and more, I realize that I am really getting better just by watching them and learning.'
That is one of the real thrills of watching the Skins - watching Annika compete against the men. Last year she eagled a par-5 when she blasted out of a bunker into the hole. Golf is truly one sport where the two sexes can be competitive.
I think it is a great game where we can do both, she said.
The power and the strength are an issue. If we could have a driving competition, it would not be something that I would want to do, but for me, to learn from the guys and their different ways, bottom line, it is the same game. You play from A to B. I might not be able to hit 300 yards, but I want to see how they do it and try to maximize my ability.
It is somewhat ironic that men have almost always performed the touch skills better than women. As difficult as it is comparing PGA Tour statistics with the LPGA, still the leading male putter, Brian Gay, averaged 27.96 per round while the LPGAs best, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, averaged 28.75. The courses and conditions on the two tours are far different, of course, but this disparity probably illustrates that, as children, boys are introduced to sports earlier than girls.
Women are commonly believed to be more adept at such small-muscle skills, given that all other conditions are equal. Annika believes that small-muscle excellence such as chipping the ball is an area where she can improve, especially after watching the men work at it.
Strength does play a part of it, but they can get the ball up and near really quickly, she said. They can get the ball to stop quickly. Just to see how they work the ball, that type of stuff - that is what I think I am lacking in my game. Therefore I want to see somebody who is very good at it and hopefully I can pick up pointers and be able to do it.
Watch the Skins Game this weekend and pick out instances where Annika can learn from the men. And at the same time, see where the men can learn from Annika. After all, she won 10 times this year ' she has plenty to teach the gents. And, most of all, you the viewer are bound to learn a lot.
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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.