Time to Call Annika the Greatest

By George WhiteMarch 29, 2005, 5:00 pm
Simply put, its time. Time to consider Annika Sorenstam the greatest female athlete ever to play the game. Only one performer is left standing who might be considered her equal ' Mickey Wright.
 
Sorenstam tied another record at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last week with her fifth consecutive win. That tied Nancy Lopez, who did it in 1978. Still above her in the victory category are Wright (82) and Kathy Whitworth (88).
 
Of course, comparisons in different generations are really not true comparisons at all. Who knows how Wright would do in this generation, or how Sorenstam would fare in the 60s? But since records are the only guidelines we can go by, these generalities will have to suffice. You may argue all you want that Wright had the most graceful swing ever or that Sorenstam has had to face the most difficult competition, and you would undoubtedly be correct. But who is better? It would be impossible to be wrong, whomever you chose.
 
Babe Didricksen Zaharias? Possibly. Patty Berg? You could probably say that. Nancy Lopez? Yes, possibly, for a couple of years at least.
 
Whitworth lays claim to the most LPGA victories ever ' 88. But she played well over 500 tournaments while she was winning from 1962 to 1985. She wins the record for longevity ' more than three decades (34 years) of victories. But as far as the greatest player in history, the race appears down to Wright and Sorenstam.
 
Wright won 82 times in her career, spanning from the 1956 Jacksonville Open to the 1973 Colgate-Dinah Shore ' the present-day Kraft Nabisco. That covers 334 tournaments, a roughly one-in-four win ratio.
 
Sorenstam has just begun her 12th season and has won 59 times. She has played in 231 events. Guess what that win ratio is? Yes, its about one in four. Wright and Sorenstam are winning at just about an equal pace.
 
But Sorenstam has 12 additional wins around the globe. If these other wins (most from the Ladies European Tour) were added to the 59, that would give her 71. Wright won an additional eight tournaments, but three were partnership wins and two were Shells Wonderful World of Golf. So, actually, Wright and Sorenstam are closer than the official figures.
 
Wright was hounded throughout her career by foot and wrist injuries, and dogged by an intense dislike of fame. Though she was under great pressure to play in all LPGA events ' she appeared 33 times in 1962, 28 times in 63 when she won 13 times, and 27 in 64 ' it would be difficult to say that she has more media attention than Sorenstam has endured.
 
Wrights last full season came when she was 34 years old ' ironically, Sorenstam is 34 now. She carried on for parts of 11 more seasons, but only once did she play more than 10 events ' she played 11 in 1977. She retired to her home in South Florida, injuries and her much-dreaded fame finally too much for her. Today she lives a quiet existence, ironically on a golf course.
 
Sorenstam came from her native Sweden, where she was for five years a member of the Swedish National team. She spent time at the University of Arizona and didnt join the LPGA until she was 23. But she is like Wright in that she is very private, keeping mostly to herself when she isnt playing. She, like Wright, isnt a particularly charismatic person. She merely endures the question-and-answer sessions with the world press, though she is polite always and is indeed more communicative than Wright. But neither player is a Lucille Ball with the quips.
 
Lopez let the world in on what Annika is thinking. Nancy, remember, was there herself in 78, when she won her five in a row (while taking off one week). She won nine times that year at age 20, eight times in 79 at age 21.
 
It's just a great feeling what she's feeling, Lopez said. You have so much confidence, and even when you're not playing well, you still have confidence.
 
I think sometimes even Annika might try too hard because she knows how good she is, and she probably feels like she can win every tournament by 10 shots. That's how good she is and she knows that in here.
 
Sorenstam will surpass Wrights victory total in a little more three years if she averages eight per year ' which she has done for the past four years. And by the time she has played 15 seasons ' the same number Wright did when Wright was winning her 82 ' Sorenstam would be very nearly past Whitworth for all-time wins if she keeps up her torrid pace. Sorenstam goes into the books with an even dozen seasons after this year and is now 29 victories behind the lady who posted 88.
 
Suddenly, 88 doesnt seem like such an impossibility. It now appears that Sorenstam will play at least another three years, now that she has filed for divorce and the possibility of having children grows dimmer and dimmer by the year. Will she play into her 40s? Its possible ' Annika has had time to rethink her career plans since last offseason.
 
For me to set goals keeps me going, she said last week. I might not achieve exactly those, but I know my golf is getting better and I'm going to win tournaments and that's really what I want. That's what keeps me going.
 
Again, I have lofty goals but I'm not afraid to challenge them. I'm not afraid to admit them, and I've just got to do it, really. It's harder than that, but again, that's what I look forward to.
 
Is Annika the greatest? She is getting awfully close, if she isnt already there.
 
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.