Its Annika - Again and Again

By George WhiteJune 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 McDonaldDont look now, but shes at it again. Annika Sorenstam, on the eve of the LPGAs second major of the year, won again last week. If Annika doesnt win, its a major news story.
 
That underscores just how incredible all this has become. If Annika is entered, Annika wins. Its happened seven times in her last nine events. Is that good? No, thats unbelievable ' unbelievably good.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has won five of the seven tour events she has entered this season.
How crazy is this? Well, consider that the average professional golfer ' male or female ' has had a pretty good season if they win ONE time. Sorenstam has done that in every year that she has been a pro save one ' in her rookie year of 1994.
 
Since 1999, Annika has won at least five events every single year. This year shes at it again, having already won five times in just seven tournaments. She, of course, won the seasons first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has said many times that her goal is to win all four in one season. The task seems impossible for anyone else. For Sorenstam, it only seems unlikely. Perhaps it can be done? Yes, perhaps.
 
People, we are living in a very special time. An Annika Sorenstam will likely never come around again in this lifetime. Someone like Annika probably wont come around in a hundred years ' maybe forever.
 
Sorenstam has not missed a cut in a non-major since her rookie season of 94 ' 11 years ago. Lets see, her last missed cut came Aug. 9, 2002, in the Weetabix Womens British Open. Prior to then, she had made 74 consecutive cuts.
 
That last missed cut came at windy, chilly Royal Birkdale. She scored 150 the first two days (73-77), missing by five shots. Prior to that, she missed the U.S. Womens Open cut in 99 by two shots. There was the Open again in 97 when she shot 77-73 (150) while trying to win her third straight U.S. Open. That broke a string of 61 consecutive cuts made, followed by a missed cut at the du Maurier that same year ' yes, she shot 150 (this time 73-77).
 
And thats it since she missed four cuts in the first nine events she played on the LPGA ' in 94. Four missed cuts in the last 11 years ' and all those in majors
 
That, though, just speaks to Sorenstams consistency. Lets talk about her excellence. The better golfers, both men and women, win about 10 percent of the time. Thats about two to three times a year. An excellent record might be five times in one year ' perhaps 20 percent.
 
A good baseball player gets three hits in every 10 times at bat ' a .300 average. How good has Annika been over her last nine tournaments? Shes won seven times ' better than a 70 percent average.
 
She has won very nearly 50 percent ' half ' of the times shes teed it up since she played against the men of the PGA Tour at Colonial in May, 2002. During that span, shes played in 37 events. And she has won 18 times. If Annika is entered, she is a very good bet to win.
 
Sorenstam has 61 wins now. Shes in her 34th year (she was born Oct. 9, 1970.) The leader in wins, Kathy Whitworth, was born Sept. 27, 1939 ' at the end of her 34th year, she had 71 wins (1973). The difference is now 10, but Sorenstam is racing up.
 
The 34th year, though ' 1973 ' was the last big year for Whitworth. She won seven times that year, but the most she would win in any one year thereafter was three. She won tournaments up through her 46th year en route to her 88.
 
Sorenstam doesnt think she will be playing at age 46, but dont all the great ones think something similar? Dont forget, Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at age 46.
 
Sorenstam, however, will break the win record long before she is 46 if she maintains only a modicum of her current skill level. If she wins just five tournaments a year ' certainly doable for her ' she would reach No. 89 by the time she is still 39.
 
Of course, its impossible to compare eras. Whitworth or Mickey Wright, Patty Berg or Babe Didrickson Zaharias ' its impossible to declare the best. But many observers say there has never been an age like the present, when an untold number of women from throughout the globe now excel at the game. No player in history has had to contend with the quality of Annikas competition.
 
But for the sake of making a comparison, wins are a visible reminder of who has been the best over a period of time. And over a long period of time, certainly Whitworth has been the best. But Sorenstam ' along with possibly Wright, Berg and Zaharias ' are included in the very small number at the top.
 
The 34th year, incidentally, was quite important in Mickey Wrights career, also. By then she had just about finished winning ' she only won once more, at age 38. Wright actually won more frequently than Sorenstam ' she had 81 victories by the end of her 34th year. But she was compelled to play almost every tournament for several years ' sponsors threatened to pull their events if she didnt appear. Annika hasnt been under that kind of pressure ' she has played in only 18-20 times nearly every year.
 
Sorenstam actually has 12 other wins from around the world ' wins from Australia and Europe included. That gives her a total of 73 wins. Do these wins equate to some of the tournaments in America of 30 years ago? Quite possibly. With 73 wins total, we would be talking about Annika seriously closing in on the all-time record. As it is, were just talking about one utterly incomprehensible athlete.
 
I want to be remembered as somebody who loved the challenge and wasn't afraid to face it, Annika says. She has a real challenge before her in doing what Wright or Whitworth did. But I believe she will do it.
 
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Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Leaderboard - McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Photo Gallery - Annika Sorenstam
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.