Its About Time We Got Excited

By George WhiteMay 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam won for the 60th time last weekend on the LPGA Tour. Excuse me, but its about time we all got excited.
Kathy Whitworth set the all-time LPGA record of 88 wins. Whitworth was an exceptional player ' obviously. But her record will almost certainly be broken by Sorenstam if Sorenstam stays in the game. And, after the dissolution of her marriage in the off-season, it appears that she almost certainly will stay. Previously she had thought seriously of quitting to start a family. Now, golf has become her family.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is just 28 wins shy of tying Kathy Whitworth for the All-Time wins lead.
Whitworths record has always been thought of as unapproachable. But Annika has quietly been putting up numbers which rival Whitworths at identical stages of their careers. Sorenstam had the extreme misfortune to be overshadowed in her career by Tiger Woods. But slowly, she is emerging in her own right as a true superstar.
Sorenstam is 34 now and a 60-time winner. When Whitworth won her 60th she was ' surprise! ' 34. She won No. 60 in 1972 at the Alamo Ladies Open in San Antonio. It happened, incidentally, on April 30th. Annika won No. 60 on May 15th - just two weeks later on the calendar.
Whitworth as a child didnt play golf until she was 15. She was overweight as a child while she toted the bass drum in high school at Jal, N.M., weighing 215 pounds while standing just 5-feet-7. But she went on a strict diet and lost 40 pounds in five months, eventually losing down to 145 pounds. That alone shows the determination she had as a youngster.
Sorenstam also didnt play golf as a child. She had picked up a club and swung it as a 5-year-old, but as a teenager she excelled in tennis. Her parents moved the family from their native Sweden to England while Annika was 10. Her parents joined a golf club, and Annika went a few times. But she was first and foremost a tennis player, even when the family moved back to Stockholm four years later.
And then, like Whitworth, she got into golf fairly late. She turned her attention to the sport when she was 16 and was good enough, quickly enough, to be chosen for the Swedish National Team.
By the age of 19 in 1959, Whitworth had turned professional. She went six months without making as much as a dime ' she played on $20,000 invested in her by her father, her home-course pro, and two Jal businessmen. When she finally cashed a check, it was for $33 ' the same amount Jack Nicklaus won with his first paycheck in 1962.
Whitworth didnt win a tournament until she was playing in her fourth year ' in 1962 at the age of 22. Sorenstam didnt win until she was 24 after five years on the Swedish National Team and a couple of years at the University of Arizona. Annika was 24 when she won for the first time ' the U.S. Womens Open in her second year as a pro.
Whitworth went on a tear the next seven years after her initial win in 1962 ' from 1963-69. She won 51 times during that span, 53 total in her career, by the time she was 30. She won 10 times in 1968, nine times in 1966, and eight times on three more occasions ' in 63, 65 and 67.
Kathy had been playing 11 years by the time her greatest years were ended. She still won 16 times in three years, 71 to 73. By then she was 34.
Did someone say 34? Isnt that Annika Sorenstams age? Whitworth won seven times in 1973 when her 34th birthday rolled around. Annika has won four times in five events already in her 34th year. By the end of 73, Whitworth had 71 victories. Sorenstam already has 60, and the season isnt even halfway over.
Alas, 1973 ' in her 34th year ' Whitworth was finished as a dominating player. She would win 17 more times through the next 12 years, but never again would she win more than three times in one year.
Whitworth, incidentally, played in an era of the LPGAs greatest stars. She came up in Mickey Wrights heyday. In her glory years of 1963-73, she also faced Betsy Rawls, Carol Mann, Sandra Haynie, JoAnne Carner, Sandra Palmer and Judy Rankin. And for that 11-year stretch, she won 69 times.
The years from 1995 to the present, though, have very nearly been as fruitful for Sorenstam. She has won 60 times in this 11-year period, and the season isnt half over. Included in Annikas generation are Hall of Famers Juli Inkster, Beth Daniel and Betsy King, and soon-to-be inducted Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak.
You have to say that Sorenstam has a golden opportunity to break the record. She stands 28 victories from tying it, 29 from breaking it. And that isnt such a big hill to climb. She has won 37 times in the last 4 years, and has shown no signs of slowing down.
It is within the realm of possibility that Sorenstam can tie Whitworth this year with 69 victories in her 34 years, though it would be a massive climb. She would have to tie Wrights all-time record of 13 wins in one season. But four wins in five events has Annika well on her way. She will probably play in 18-20 events, meaning she has at least 13 more occasions to win nine events. Not probable, but possible.
Actually, Sorenstam has already won 72 times, if you include the 12 times she has won in Europe.
Ive always said this about Annika, Wright told the Palm Beach Post. Shes got it ' whatever it is. I like her golf swing. When she gets confidence in her putting, shes unbeatable.
Can Annika do it? Yes, most assuredly, if she stay around for at least another 5-6 years. She will be 40 then ' Whitworth won No. 88 at age 45 in 1985. Sorenstam is truly a player for the ages.
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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”