Annika Quietly Wins Another

By George WhiteSeptember 7, 2006, 4:00 pm
Lost in the shuffle of Tigers fifth win in a row was this item that you probably never even noticed ' Annika Sorenstam also won, No. 69 in a relentless climb toward No. 88.
 
Annika came from five behind to win the State Farm Classic, her third win of the season. It sounds impressive until you remember that she once came from 10 off the pace to win. In fact, in 21 of her wins, she has come from behind. This time, she just went out and took it from Maria Hjorth and Cristie Kerr, firing a 62 to tie an LPGA record for the lowest final round by a winner.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has held 69 LPGA Tour trophies in her career.
The season has been something of a disappointment for Annika. Her lowest win total in the last six years has been five in 2000. Last year she won 10 times. The fact that she also won last month in Sweden at the tournament which bears her name wont help her much ' it wasnt an official LPGA event. It was a Ladies European Tour event.
 
If youre keeping score, it was Sorenstams 14th non-LPGA win. If those were added to her LPGA total, she would now be on 83 instead of 69, and Kathy Whitworths record would be much more manageable. As it is, Annika has only thought of Whitworths record 88 in fleeting terms. That mark remains a very daunting 19 wins away to tie, 20 to get to 89.
 
Obviously, I know some of the history, says Annika. 'But to be honest, I've never really thought that, you know - I didn't come out here on tour and say I'm going to beat Kathy Whitworth's 88 wins. I mean, that just sounds a little crazy.
 
Right now, I'm in a position where I never thought I can get to, like you mentioned (69) career wins. I have to pinch myself many times, is it really true? But nowadays I have to set new goals, I have to push myself harder. Yes, I think about that. I wonder what my chances are, if I can do that. Obviously, you need a few good years to have a chance to achieve that.
 
Annika has worked exceptionally hard on her swing this year, so hard that it may have prevented her from winning a time or two. She and coach Henri Reis have been working on some technical fine-tuning, and they have spent many long hours at her Orlando residence going over drills which may finally have begun to pay dividends.
 
I have been working so hard on my swing for so long, she said. And I just haven't felt like I have been able to finish.
 
The British Open I started good, but I didn't finish. The first round here (at the State Farm), I started well and I didn't finish. It just seems like this year it's been 14 or 15 really good holes. In Atlanta I was leading and hit out-of-bounds on 17, which to me it's very rare. Normally, I am so consistent and I can finish.
 
Annika is about a month removed from her 36th birthday, and the wins will only get tougher and tougher from here on out. Lorena Ochoa has emerged as a major force, Karrie Webb has rejuvenated her slumping career, Michelle Wie looms, and a whole host of Koreans have emerged who can win. Winning, it must be said, is much more difficult.
 
Sorenstam could very easily get caught up in trying to beat Whitworths record. But she refuses to get caught in that trap. She breaks it down year-by-year, month-to-month, and round-by-round, even shot-by-shot. I think the key is to stay in the present, she said.
 
And even though you get off to a good (start), it's easy to start thinking about birdies, and thinking, Oh, I'm going to shoot a really low score. You have got to stay in the moment. The third hole is done with, and let's go to the fourth and play that. And it's, Let's hit one shot at a time.
 
And for me, it's short-term goals within the round. And that is why I used to say, put the flag in the center (of the fiarway) - that is my first goal. I have to get it there. And then you put a flag on the green, and that is my second goal. And I kind of plug along that way. And it's a way of breaking the round up - an easy way to stay in the moment rather than looking at 18 holes and thinking I have to shoot 65, or something to catch someone. That, to me, is very difficult.
 
Sorenstams quest certainly is not lost on her competitors. She is universally idolized by them.
 
I admire her, said Ochoa. She has been No. 1 for so long and she deserves to be No. 1.
 
Kerr has finished second to Annika probably eight or nine times in my career, she said, and it happened again at the State Farm when Sorenstam birdied five of the last six holes, including a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
 
You never can count her out, Kerr said. If she gets it going and she gets her confidence going, you know, anything is possible.
 
If the past four years are any indication, Annika is about to put it in another gear. During that time, Annika has averaged four wins a year after the first week of September. She may be just heating up.
 
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

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.