Shooting at History in 59 Easy Steps
Annika Sorenstam was in Phoenix at 8:40 a.m., getting ready to make history. Of course she didnt know it yet. But in the space of less than five hours, she would do something that no woman has ever done ' she would shoot 59 in an LPGA tournament.
Of course, she had to share the spotlight that week with Tiger ' doesnt she always? Tiger Woods was busy doing something spectacular himself that week. He birdied the 18th hole at Bay Hill after first conking a spectator, and won by a single stroke over Phil Mickelson. You cant get much more dramatic than that. Unless, of course, you pick that week to uncork a 59.
Sorenstam was paired at the Standard Register Ping (now the Safeway Ping) that day with her sister, Charlotta, and Meg Mallon. Want a little spookiness in this story? Charlotta and Mallon were also in the same threesome with Se Ri Pak when Pak shot a 61 at the Farr Kroger Classic in 1998 ' then an LPGA record.
Want a little more spookiness? Charlotta missed the cut that Friday and Annika spent the evening of her magic 59 at the nearby home of Charlottas, preparing dinner and consoling little sis. None of this going out and turning the town upside down to celebrate.
And yet more spookiness? The girls father, Tom, just happened to pick this week to travel from his home in Sweden to be in the gallery. He telephoned his wife with an update every two holes ' at a cost of $12 a minute.
But there she was at 8:40, starting on hole No. 10, lining her drive down the middle on the 534-yard par 5. She hit her second shot short of the green, wedged up to seven feet. Her putt dropped in over the lip, and she had it ' birdie.
Of course, that wasnt too unusual that week at Moon Valley Country Club. Birdies werent too rare on the par-5 hole. She birdied No. 11 ' her second, a 157-yard par 3, with a nine-foot putt, and it still didnt get much attention.
When she rolled in a 30-footer for her third birdie in a row, a few people perked up. This could obviously be a good day, they thought. And more heads began to jerk when she birdied her fourth in a row after hitting a sand wedge to four feet.
By the time she had gotten around to her eighth ' incidentally, birdieing every single hole ' she had the attention of every spectator on the course, as well as every player. Number 16 ' her seventh ' was a difficult 414-yarder, but she made it look easy with a driver, 4-wood to 10 feet, and another bullseye putt. The eighth she got with an 18-footer. Hey - 8-under through eight holes is guaranteed to get you noticed, even if youre Annika Sorenstam.
The ninth, at 401 yards, was her first snafu. She could do no better than make par.
I actually told my caddie on the ninth tee, I need a par now because I am so nervous. I need to just come down to where I know I belong, and then we go from there, said Sorenstam.
I mean, I hit the middle of the green, and I wasnt aggressive at all. I needed a par. I was just ' I was so nervous at the time. It was the only par I wished for.
But there she was on her 10th ' the courses first hole ' with another birdie, a nine-foot putt.
It was unfortunate that she was now playing the front side. ESPN had laid cable on the final nine, not the first nine. That meant that the cameraman had to shoot Sorenstams final holes with a hand-held camera, racing in to the production truck after each hole to get the film on the air. By now the news had reached past the golf course and was beginning to trickle out that Annika had an excellent chance of breaking 60.
She ripped off four more consecutive birdies ' her 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th ' before finally hitting the wall. She now was 12-under through 13, needing only one more to get to the magic 13-under. Surely she would get it.
But she missed a nine-footer at her 14th, a 20-footer at her 15th and a 30-footer at the 16th, and suddenly Sorenstam had just two holes left. Her 17th, though, was a 476-yard par 5, and for Annika not to make birdie would have been, well, shocking.
She hit her drive in the fairway ' as she had done every hole. She reached the green with a 7-wood, the ball dying 25 feet from the hole. She had no trouble in two-putting, giving her the Holy Grail of 13-under.
On her 18th, she was a little weak-kneed with the prospect of shooting ' 58? She teed her 4-wood on the 383-yarder and absolutely crushed it, again reached the fairway. A sand wedge was next and she lobbed up a rainbow that died just nine feet away.
Knees shaking now, she settled in over the putt ' and missed by the narrowest of margins when it creased the lip of the cup. But it was a simple tap-in, and there she had it ' the first 59 ever by a woman.
Sorenstam had done it, played almost perfectly, hitting all the fairways, all the greens, and needing only 25 putts. Eleven putts were from nine feet or longer.
That day Ill never forget, Annika said later. I mean, it was obviously a career round.
Actually, I didnt hit the ball very well on the range. But then I just got off to such an incredible start. I didnt do anything differently. I didnt eat anything different. I just know its possible ' and thats what I learned from that day.
Unfortunately, that was only Friday, and she had to play two more days. And unfortunately, Pak sizzled the next two days, shooting a 63 and then a 67.
Sorenstam, though, had just enough. She shot 69-68 and won by two strokes. Game, set, and match to Mrs. 59.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry