Annikas Awe-Inspiring Prize - the Hall

By George WhiteOctober 16, 2003, 4:00 pm
It was the last hole Annika Sorenstam will ever play as a nobody (i.e., non-Hall of Famer) and she was in an awful snit. Here she was at No. 18 in the first round of the Samsung World Championship last week, and her drive had bounced into a lake marked as a lateral hazard.
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.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

Getty Images

Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.