Sorenstam Pak and Webb Pace LPGA

By George WhiteSeptember 20, 2001, 4:00 pm
Karrie Webb or Annika Sorenstam, Annika Sorenstam or Karrie Webb. For the last six years they have had a stranglehold of the LPGA, with Se Ri Pak rushing up to join them this season.
Sorenstam has six wins heading into the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship, Pak four and Webb two. Both of Webb's wins, though, are majors. Sorenstam won the first big one, the Nabisco Championships, and Pak the last, the Weetabix British Open. Trying to figure who has had the Player of the Year season is like trying to slide a mat under a closed door. It can be done, but not very easily.
The last six Vare trophies for the lowest stroke average have been won by Sorenstam and Webb. So have the last six money titles. Only Laura Davies' win in 1996 has prevented a sweep by those two of Player of the Year the last six years.
Pak, who will be turn 24 this month, has served notice to the world that she must be reckoned with. Sorenstam at 30 is just beginning to hit her prime years. Webb is 26.
Webb dominated the last two years, coming of age after Sorenstam had been the big winner the previous four. Sorenstam, however, rededicated herself to being No. 1 in the off-season, and her efforts have paid off in a boatload of victories this year.
She erupted for four straight wins, beginning with Welch's/Circle K the second week of March, continuing through the following week with a 59 that shook the golf world in the Standard Register Ping, carried through the first major, the Nabisco, and finally wound up with the Office Depot the second week in April. She won the Chick-fil-A three weeks later in May, then didn't register another victory until she won the Bank of Montreal the third week of August.
Pak has been possibly the most consistent, grabbing the opening tournament of the year, another in April, one in July and the British Open in August. Pak has won $1,329,941, which trails Sorenstam's $1,608,941.
And then there's Webb. She peaked her game two times, both major championships. She won the U.S. Women's Open by a whopping eight strokes, then fought back tears for her recently deceased grandfather to take the LPGA Championship.
'It happens with both Annika and Karrie,' said Helen Alfredsson. 'It's sort of like the Jack Nicklaus syndrome. They are up there, and everybody starts thinking about second place.'
Well, everyone but Pak, who this year has gone on winning and winning and winning. Some will say she got her British Open major because Sorenstam and Webb were tied up with Tiger Woods and David Duval on Monday night of the tournament. But the fact remains, she is the youngest of this trio and she has been the most consistent.
But there is no way for anyone to displace Sorenstam, whose early-season successes have been the most impressive on the LPGA.
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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.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.