Sorenstam Quietly Goes About Win Business
Sorenstam tied another all-time record last week. She shot 21-under in a 54-hole tournament. She missed a 15-foot putt on the last hole for 22-under. Records, though, have become so pass for her, though her modesty confounds most of the people who are expecting an athletic blunderbuss when they meet her.
There are those who believe Nancy Lopez was the greatest woman golfer ever. Some say Mickey Wright. Others believe it was Kathy Whitworth or Babe Zaharias, maybe Patty Berg. And they may be right. But it may well be Annika Sorenstam, who is just 31 years old but has won 35 times going into this weeks LPGA Championship.
There is no way of computing the greatest according to wins alone because, according to Beth Daniel, winning is so much more difficult today. Whitworth won 88 times, but would she have won that much if she played today? Wright won 82 times, Lopez 48 times, but would each been just as successful if they were trying to carve out victories today? Maybe ' but maybe not.
I think its much more difficult now, because I think the depth of players that are capable of winning is much greater, said Daniel. This is not to say that those players werent great ' only that Sorenstam deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. Daniel herself has 32 wins in a career that started back in 1979, certainly another generation.
Sorenstam, though, is a victim of Tiger. She happened to come into her own just as he did. Tiger has won 31 times on the PGA Tour since he turned pro late in 1996. It just so happens that Sorenstam has won ' surprise! ' 31 times over the exact same timespan. Tiger has won by some pretty audacious margins ' 15 in a U.S. Open, 12 in a Masters. But Sorenstam shot a 59 ' an LPGA record ' and has set or tied 31 records. And last week she won by 11 while shooting her record-tying 21-under.
Sorenstam is neither particularly long (she ranked 26th in driving last year) nor a particularly good putter (she finished 100th last year.) But she is such a deadly iron player. She hit nearly 80 percent of the greens last season, and that was five percent better than the second-place player ' Karrie Webb.
It was Webb who, just a couple of years ago, was considered the best player in the LPGA. But people underestimated Sorenstam, who deep inside has a smoldering to be The Best. She never was a particularly strong putter, but she made up for it by being the greatest iron player the LPGA has ever seen. She wants it so badly that she stayed in the gym, she went on a strict diet, and she has become an exercise maven in her own home. Today, she is No. 1, not because Webb is necessarily worse, but because Sorenstam has gotten appreciably better.
Im happy for her because shes really, really put in a lot of hard work, said Webb. And its paid off for her.
A lot of us have put in a lot of hard work, and some of us arent as fortunate as others. You know, she really wanted to be the best. She went out and did it. I mean, Im happy for anyone that puts in that amount of work and does what she has done.
Annika won eight times last year alone. For anyone outside of Tiger, thats phenomenal. She has won four times already this year. Webb is one of the players who is trying to keep her from winning eight in 2002, and she realizes that if Sorenstam reaches that number again, there wont be that many left for Webb herself.
Shes not going to try any less, said Webb. Shes not going to be any less determined, I dont think. I can tell you now, I will eat my hat if she wins eight tournaments from now on. I knew I wasnt going to do it. Im pretty sure shes not counting on winning eight tournaments.
Well, Sorenstam may be thinking of it now. She has four at the halfway point. She could easily win four more the second half. Doesnt that make eight for the second year in a row?
At 31, Sorenstam is just rounding into her prime. And she has never played better for three rounds than she played last week.
The combination of everything, this is probably the best Ive played, she said at the Kellogg-Keebler Classic in Chicago last week. Earlier in the year, I hit the ball really well. A month, I was putting well but not hitting it well.
This week, the way I hit it was as good as I have in a long time.
Danielle Ammaccapane was her playing partner Sunday when Sorenstam, leading by five after Saturday, shot a 65 to wind it up. She admitted she was awestruck as she watched the precision in Sorenstams shots.
Shes every bit as good as they say she is, Ammaccapane said. She leaves herself good angles to the green and doesnt mishit a lot of shots. She has everything.
Everything except the respect a player should have whos mentioned in the same sentence as the greatest in the game. Its about time for that to change, dont you think?
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.