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.
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''