Annikas Not Fretting Over 2006

By George WhiteNovember 16, 2006, 5:00 pm
The whispers have become almost audible now. Annika Sorenstam has given up her throne at the top of womens golf, they say. Lorena Ochoa is the one. Karrie Webb is it again. Annika was great ' WAS being the key word. But now shes become expendable.
Has she?
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is looking for her third straight ADT Championship victory this week.
Well, she IS 36. For the last five years prior to this season, she won more than any women in golf ' 43 times, an average of well over eight times a season. But this year was a rather quiet year for Annika. She won just three times on the LPGA, exactly half as many as Ochoas six. Those three wins on the LPGA were her lowest total in seven years. She also won in Sweden, in Dubai and has a World Cup. But even five individual wins is way below her average.
Is Sorenstam done? Is Kathy Whitworths 88 wins safe after all? (Annika is stuck on 69 after appearing to be a good bet for the mark prior to this season.) And Patty Bergs record of 15 majors ' that also is appearing a long shot for the Swede who now has 10 major championships.
She plays in the LPGA season finale this week, the ADT Championship. one last time this year to win, one final time to get to 70 career LPGA victories. She may be 36 years old, she may have slowed down somewhat, but she says she hasnt given up yet. Dont expect her to go quietly into the night, just another face in the crowd.
This year I have struggled a little bit with my swing, and you know, in the past, I would just go up and I would hit a shot and I would not really think about it - I would not at least wonder where it is going, said Annika. This year, it has been totally opposite; it has been, Where am I going and what am I doing? I have not played to my potential.
So I have done a lot of thinking, a lot of analyzing. And in August, I just went back to my coach (Henri Reis) and said, Hey, we have to go back to basics; we have to work on my grip, my setup, and everything, just to get back to my consistent swing. I mean, I cannot play with a swing that only works for 14, 15 holes.
And the increased work has had the dual effect of re-energizing her.
I do think, to be positive about the whole thing, this is probably good for me, she said. This keeps me motivated, this keeps me on my toes and I continue to work hard and not just take things for granted.
Sorenstam realizes that, to stay on top of the heap, she will have to get better. Can she? No one knows, of course, but she herself knows that Ochoa and Webb and Cristie Kerr and the young South Koreans have gotten better ' a lot better.
The competition level is so much higher now, says Annika. I mean, we used to say if you shot level par at majors, you will win every major. That is not true anymore, and you know, the last few times I have played, you had to be in double digits to finish in the top 10. And that is pretty much every week.
But if she never wins another tournament, she will be adored for what she has already done, revered for that certain something that has driven her the past 12 years.
Annika went out and researched the game, says Meg Mallon, looked at the stats, saw Karrie beating her week-in and week-out and said, How am I going to be better?
I kind of equate her to Michael Jordan. When Michael Jordan first came out, they said all he can do is dunk and doesn't win championships. So Michael Jordan went and perfected his jumpshot and became one of the best in the game. That's what Annika does year-in and year-out. She finds her weaknesses and makes them better. She made herself great.
Tiger Woods concedes he is in awe of her.
We have a great friendship and one I certainly treasure because to see what she's doing out there, it's a lot of fun to watch because it's precise golf, he said. Her focus, her determination, her preparation over the winter months - people don't realize how hard she works. We worked on our short games together last fall. You can't believe how hard she works. She didn't get to this level by just hoping she could play well.
Mallon, who has been a pro for 19 years, knows the reason Annika has been such a huge success. Incredible mental strength, Meg says simply. Discipline that every athlete would envy, I think in any sport - how she's maintained that. Incredible work ethic.
It sounds simple, but she has accomplished all of those things, amazingly well for a long period of time. I mean, we're all human beings, and we do have our tendencies to go through ruts and she just has not allowed that to happen, and that's incredible.
Sorenstam has slowly spread herself over a wide vista this year ' she now does design work, she is about to have a golf academy, fitness DVDs, clothing contracts. But playing golf is still paramount.
The fundamental thing is, I enjoy it, she said with finality. I love what I do. I have a passion for the game and that's really what keeps me going. And I think just - I enjoy the practice and enjoying being in the position I'm in. That is very, very important.
Its largely because of those other interests that have made 2006, in her words, a wonderful year I have done a lot of things off the golf course that have been very, very successful. It's just not the victories that you can look at. I'm happy overall.
Webb says lighten up on her ' Sorenstams only fault is that she has made a living out of being Sorenstam.
Annika - I think it's really hard to keep the standard of golf that she's played. She won 10 tournaments last year, says Karrie. She could have won six tournaments this year, and you guys would have said it was a bad year. So it's a very, very high standard of golf that she's played.
Maybe Karrie Webb is right. Maybe Annika is still the best. Maybe this has been a bit of an off-year. Ochoa and Webb and maybe Kerr havent really surpassed her ' maybe this is a one-year anomaly.
But if she isnt No. 1 any longer, then she is for sure No. 2 or No. 3. There always will be only ONE Annika.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “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.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”