Sorenstam Meets the Press at Colonial

By George WhiteMay 20, 2003, 4:00 pm
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Annika Sorenstam had to admit she was intimidated. She walked into the media room at the Bank of America Colonial Tuesday and there to greet her were pens and pencils, video cameras, still cameras, tape recorders, microphones of all shapes and sizes ' and bodies.
 
Im overwhelmed and I cant believe how many of you guys are here, she said. Its great. But I think that when I accepted the invitation, I must have been very nave. Im doing this to test myself and I didnt think everybody else wanted to test me at the same time.
 
Colonial officials normally give out about 125 media credentials. This week, with the first woman to play a PGA Tour event in 58 years on hand, theyve given out almost 600.
 
Sorenstam got to Colonial at 6:30 Tuesday morning, saw the ladies locker room where she will be all alone this week, and went out to play golf.
 
She played with fellow Swede Jesper Parnevik and Sergio Garcia. She hit three shots to the par-5 first green and then the deluge started. It continued to rain most of the day, ending all golfing exercises. So Sorenstam will try again Wednesday to get in her second 18 ever on the course.
 
Parnevik and Garcia engaged Sorenstam in a lot of chatter during their abbreviated showing Tuesday. Sorenstam revealed a little of their conversation as they were about to tee off.
 
We were just trying to figure what kind match we were going to play, she said. And the betting and the order and Jesper asked me how many shots I wanted.
 
That wasnt a good thing to say to Annika, who would like to be treated here totally as an equal. I told him Im not here to get any shots, she said, feigning her impudence. And he didnt say much more after that.
 
She reiterated again that she is looking at this as a one time only affair, one time to try the PGA Tour and then she will return forever to the LPGA.
 
I think one week is going to be enough for me, she said. Ive said that this is going to be my only time that I will play on the PGA Tour. Just because the reason is that I want to play on the LPGA, I want to win tournaments and I have a lot of goals that I want to achieve there.
 
If I was here to prove something, then, yeah, I believe I should play more tournaments. But Im not here to prove to anybody anything. Im just here to test myself, kind of get a feel for the water here and learn from the experience.
 
Its not a battle of the sexes thing to Sorenstam, either. She happens to be a woman who plays golf, instead of a woman first, golfer second.
 
There is no way I would have accepted this invitation if I was trying to prove something here, she said. Im just here, maybe a little selfish since Im just trying to be here and test myself. But theres no way I would like to have all the women on my shoulders and have my game rely on all that. Thats too much pressure.
 
So Im just going to leave it up to me and do the best I can. And when I leave here on Sunday, I know what Ive got to work on and I will do that.
 
She has been the subject of a firestorm of negative opinion, but Sorenstam has never wavered. She has determinedly done what she thought was the right course of action ' to play a PGA Tour event ' and she even said Tuesday that she is disappointed that Vijay Singh withdrew. Singh earlier had some of the most critical comments about her appearance here.
 
I was sad that he is not here, said Sorenstam. I think that he is such a great player, top seven in the world, I think its bad for Colonial. But he has his reasons and its unfortunate that hes not here.

But for all the negative comments, she has received just as many which were positive. Many players, both male and female, have wished her well. Nancy Lopez made a telephone call which especially touched her. And this week it was the mens turn. She received congratulations from several.
 
I feel very welcome, she said. Ive had several guys come up to me and they wished me good luck. And Tom Pernice especially was very, very friendly. He said if I needed anything, any help, just to talk to me. And Fred Funk was the first guy to come up and theres been numerous guys. I had breakfast with Jeff Sluman. It was very nice. And I feel obviously a little odd woman out.
 
She told of Tiger Woods phone calls ' hes a neighbor in Orlando and has called several times, even though he is not entered in this tournament. He phoned her twice Monday, just to tell me how to handle things, she said. His experience in handling large crowds and situations where he obviously is the main attraction meant a lot.
 
He told me he would be watching, so I better play well, she said with a grin.
 
Almost everyone who has a computer and access to a newspaper has written opinions on why shes doing this. Many felt that she is trying to get publicity for herself because she supposedly feels somehow slighted. But Sorenstam said she feels exactly the opposite ' she has never felt ignored by the media.
 
I never felt that way, she said adamantly. And I wouldnt ' I personally dont think I would be here if I wouldnt have achieved everything I have.
 
Sorenstam plays at 8:58 CST in Round 1 and at 1:43 p.m. CST in Round 2.
 

Related Links:
  • ''Everything Annika'' Feature Page
  • Annika and the Colonial Timeline
  • Full Coverage of the Bank of America Colonial
     

     

     
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.