Annikas Awe-Inspiring Prize - the Hall
She did a slow burn (Annikas burns are almost always slow ' shes Swedish, you know.) Then she got that dont-mess-with-me look on her face. She dropped another ball and grimly set about her task ' to turn what seemed to be near-certain bogey into a par. It would require a shot onto the green and then a one-putt par.
For most golfers, thats dicey territory, at best. For Sorenstam, to do anything other than that would be unthinkable.
I got upset at myself and said, Im going to made par there, anyway, said Annika. And she did, beautifully playing an approach up to six feet, then draining the putt. Annika had already decreed it, and when she decrees something, you can count it accomplished.
Her entire professional career, it seems, has been just like that. She stretches out to her 5-feet 6-inches, she sets her jaw firmly, and then she executes the shot. Much more often than not, it comes off exactly as planned.
Sorenstam, 33 last Thursday, has had to wait for three years to enter the Hall. Thats because of an LPGA rule stating that you must have been active for 10 years before entering. Sorenstam had fulfilled all other requirements after seven years of competition, and then it was just a matter of staying alive until the requisite 10 had passed. She will be inducted along with Nick Price, Chako Higuchi and Leo Diegel on Monday in ceremonies at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fl.
Her first LPGA event was in 1993 in Tucson at the Ping-Welchs Championship, before she was officially a tour member, just after a tour of duty at the University of Arizona. She was good enough then to finish in a tie for 38th, shooting a 1-under 71 in her first round against the LPGA pros. Her second tournament, the next week at Phoenix, she finished in a fourth-place tie.
Annika still remembers. I remember calling my dad (in Sweden) overwhelmed, she said in a media conference last week. In the second event, I finished fourth and earned $36,000, and that was my budget for the entire year.
It was like, in one event, I did what I wanted to do for the whole year. Then I was invited to play another (she finished ninth in Las Vegas) and then I played on the European Tour.
But I knew I wanted to be back on the LPGA Tour, and the next year I was.
Between that time in 1993 and now, she has collected 47 victories, including 11 last year alone. She just recently sent the Hall of Fame 80 items from her personal collection of souvenirs ' a truck full of things to exhibit.
Included in the haul was one thing very special to her ' a book from her mother that mom started reading to Annika when Annika was 2. It will be returned to her mother so her mother can give it to the grandchildren ' does this mean Annika is ready to start having children?
Oh ' the name of the book? In Swedish, its ``Duktiga, Annika'' - ``Good, Annika in English.
The book, of course, was named for an imaginary character. But it has been the pattern for Sorenstam. It has been one good after another.
When I grew up, she said, I actually competed in tennis and I wanted to be a tennis pro and my role model was (Bjorn) Borg. I was dreaming about playing at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. I used to practice about five times a week when I was 10 years old, and then I got burned out totally.
I didnt really succeed on the tennis court, so I thought I would try something else. My parents played golf, so I started playing. When I was 16, I started taking it more seriously.
Now, just when shes in the prime of this career, at an age when golfers are in the best years of their productive days, Annika says she may retire. She says she may want to do other things, she wants to raise a child, and she knows the prime years for having children are rapidly coming to an end.
It may be next year at age 33, or the next year when she is 34 ' she is still unsure of the specifics. But if she does move on, she will end a career that has been one of the most prolific in sports, particularly for someone still in the prime of her career. And there are others ' many others - who are waiting for the same opportunity she has had.
Ive always said I wasnt going to play forever, she said. I will support the LPGA Tour and play where they need me, but we have a lot of young players coming along.
Nancy (Lopez) did so many great things for this tour, then she had her farewell tour last year and somebody else will step up. We have Beth Bauer, a young, attractive American, I think she can do a lot of good things. Se Ri Pak always wanted to be the best player out here. She is ready to take the next step.
She, quite frankly, is getting weary of being Annika. Others say it would be unthinkable to have an LPGA without her. But Sorenstam says maybe, and her induction into the Hall of Fame is closing just one more chapter.
I want to play this year and probably next year because I want to play as a Hall of Famer, Annika said. After that, well see what happens. If I still wake up and have all these goals and motivation, yeah, Ill keep playing. But I have other things I want to pursue.
Sometimes I think about it ' I have won more tournaments that I ever thought I could. I dont think being out here for years and years will make my career any better.
No, it wont make her career any better, any more meaningful, or any more worthy of the Hall of Fame. But every time she plays, she gives a whole new audience the opportunity to see her play. And that, friends, is worth a fortune.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.