Annikas Motives Purely Personal
Theres certain things I can control and certain things I cant, she said, realizing that people are going to put their own spin on the situation. Id just like to emphasize that Im not putting the guys on test here - or men against women. Far from that. This is a test for me, personally.
So, if I can just relate that to them ' I mean, theyve got to trust me, this is why Im doing it. I wouldnt start to get into any political things, I have nothing to do with that. Thats not my goal here. Im dont want to put the guys on the defensive or anything. I just want to play against the best and see what happens.
Life has been a whirlwind for Sorenstam since it was announced earlier this week that she would jump out of the LPGA for one week and try the PGA Tour. Thursday night was one more distraction, with Sorenstam taking questions for an hour.
One theme that keeps coming through is that she will do what is best for the task at hand. Normally she goes into a tournament thinking about a win. She is going into this one blind, with the goal of just playing as well as she can.
I gotta believe in what I can do. I have no idea how these guys play, she said. Im going to go out there and play the course the way its set up. If I play well, I have no idea where that will put me.
But Im going to have a positive attitude. Thats the way youve got to approach this ' (that) this is a test. You know, if I didnt believe in myself, I wouldnt do this and I wouldnt be a professional golfer today. I love the challenges and Im gonna be aggressive.
Sorenstam picked Colonial because it is not overly long, but it requires players to hit all the shots. Ninety percent of the tour courses, she said, wouldnt be a candidate because of their length or because they dont have the same shot requirements. She mentioned the characteristics of a Corey Pavin, who has won the Colonial twice.
Youve got to be a player that can maneuver the golf ball, and have control of your shots, Sorenstam said. Corey Pavin displays exactly that ' he might not be long off the tee, but he hits in the middle of the fairway and can hit an iron to perfection onto the green next to the flag.
That, I believe, is my strength. I would never contend in a driving competition. That is not what I am trying to prove, I am just trying to prove that I can play a course that will fit my game and hit from A to B.
Driving, though, certainly isnt Sorenstams weak point. Her average last year was only 265 yards, long by LPGA standards but far down the mens tour ladder. However, she said that 265 is not a true indication of what she can do now.
Id like to say its longer than that (265) she said. I got this new driver in September. If you look at my average since September, Id say its higher than that. How much I dont know. In Tulsa (at an LPGA tournament late last year) I hit a few drives ' obviously my best drives ' 280, 290. I would probably average 270 if I go play today.
That would be more than sufficient at Colonial, where many of the doglegs mean that 260-270 yards is all a golfer can hit, anyway. Many of the men will be using long irons or a 3-wood off the tee. Sorenstam will be using the driver, and shes one of the best in the world at putting it where shes aiming.
And Sorenstam said that from the 7-iron on in, she hits the same club as most men. She mentioned an exhibition she played in December with David Duval, Jack Nicklaus and Lorena Ochoa. Duval and she hit the same club when they had 7-iron or less. When it was 170 yards or more, she acknowledged she needed one or two clubs more than Duval.
At Augusta National ' a course that plays quite long because of the hilly terrain ' Sorenstam said she shoots about even par from the middle tees, about 2 over when she plays all the way back at the tips. She hasnt played the course since it has been redone, though, she added.
Sorenstam admitted the thought of playing a mens event has crossed her mind for a long time now. But not until this year did she actually think it was possible.
My husband and I have always talked about, I wonder how you would play against the men? You know, on their golf course, she said. I watch a lot of PGA (tour) tournaments on TV, and I thought about it for a quick second. But then, the conversation would die and we wouldnt talk about it.
But Ive had it in the back of my mind. So when the question was asked, it wasnt totally strange to me. It was more like, Hey, I might have an opportunity! So, yeah, I would do it a heartbeat.
Suzy Whaley deserves the credit for making it possible, she said. The Connecticut head professional played a PGA sectional and won it, albeit from shorter tees than the men. For her efforts, she gets to play in the Greater Hartford Open. She emboldened Annika to think about an exemption for herself, Sorenstam said.
I think its Suzy Whaley, if something set the stage. She qualified last year and there was all the talk about her doing it. Shes a teaching professional, so therefore the discussion was, what happens if somebody who does play for a living does this? she said.
The Colonial is played at the end of May, prior to the Hartford tournament. Therefore, Sorenstam will have already have played in a mens event before Whaley does. But this in no way is meant to one-up Whaley, Sorenstam said. And Whaley said she is thrilled that Sorenstam gets the opportunity.
This has nothing to do with Suzys eligibility playing that event, Sorenstam said. She earned her right in there. This is nothing to steal her thunder, by any means.
She is a golfer, first and foremost, who wants to push back the envelope and see where it takes her.
Ive looked at myself as a golfer and said, Where do I want to take my game? What are my goals? Ive always liked a challenge.
You know, I really didnt look at it as making history or anything like that. This is an opportunity for me to showcase my game and see how good I am. This is a true test for me, and thats as far as Ive stretched it.
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.
Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions
The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”
For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.
There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.
“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”
But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.
Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”
“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”
Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.
“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”
It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.
Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”
The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”
You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.
How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?
“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.
Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.
The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.
Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.
Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.
“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”
It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.
Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.
The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.