What Else Can You Say Its Annika
There ' thats the only negative with another Annika Sorenstam storybook season. She won victory No. 7 over the weekend at the Mizuno Classic. Oh ' it was the fourth consecutive time she has won this tournament. And yes, thats a record.
Annika has now outlasted Tiger Woods as the most impressive story in golf. Tiger is somewhere in the top five. Annika is No. 1, as she has been for the past four years. The problem, of course, is that shes No. 1 in the LPGA, and that makes for an awfully quiet announcement. Annika Sorenstam is the greatest womens golfer at least since Mickey Wright 40 years ago, undoubtedly deserving of a much bigger fanfare. But she does much of her sterling stuff in relative anonymity ' hasnt that always been the plight of women golfers?
There is Michelle Wie, and then there are a whole bunch of women who play along at the game. Annika is admittedly the best-known, simply by virtue of her remarkable feats. Wies tender age (15) has been her prime calling card, though she unquestionably can play this game. But its quite difficult to always know what is transpiring with Annika, outside of the bare scores and the wins which now come at almost a one-in-two clip.
She won the Mizuno in Japan by nine strokes. Yes, I said nine strokes. The best of the women were there, but she dusted them by a full lap.
Annika has several things going against her in the publicity game. Number 1, of course is being a woman in an exercise that is still thought of as played mostly by men. Number 2 is her country of origin ' she is not an American, though she has lived here 13 years now. She is a native of Sweden. Number 3, she is not by nature a great athlete ' just a good one who has made herself great by her extreme work ethic. And No. 4, she does not toot her own horn. She always says the correct things, always carries herself as a lady, and finds it very hard to brag on herself.
This is Annika.
Cristi Kerr, Grace Park, Lorena Ochoa, Se Ri Pak - all have made some noises about the future of the LPGA. But they will have to wait awhile. As long as Annika wants it, she will remain the best in the game. Just look at her statistics this year:
She, of course, is leading the tour in wins ' seven ' more than twice the number of the No. 2s, Kerr and Meg Mallon. And she has only played 17 times (Christina Kim leads the LPGA in events played with 29).
She leads the tour easily in scoring at 68.69, more than a shot under second-place Grace Park. Oh ' she is miles ahead in money won ' her jackpot of better than $2.3 million is more than $800,000 better than second-place Park.
She averages 269.4 in driving distance, which last year would have placed her in the lead. This year two are better, but she is tied for third ' again with Park. But that T3 makes her by far the best driver on the tour because she is 21st in driving accuracy. Distance leader Sophie Gustafson is 164th, second-place Wendy Doolan is 78th and Park is 100th.
OK, how about putting? Sorenstam used to be very mundane at putting, but she has made herself into a very good putter. Last year she was No. 1, this year shes tied for fourth.
Maybe shes impressive because she made herself into a great player. Karrie Webb looked for all the world like she was going to be the best in the world for years to come when she was No. 1 in 99 and 2000. But Sorenstam, in a gritty display of determination, made herself the best.
She won eight times in 2001, 11 times in 2002, eight times last year and seven more this year. Thats 34 victories in just four years. That, people, is unheard-of in modern golf. Webb never could have guessed that it meant that much to Annika. No one could have ' but heres evidence that it did.
Or maybe she is impressive because she is always improving. Can she get any better than she is right now? Definitely, if you listen to what she is saying:
I think certain parts of my game have improved every year, she said. My long game is pretty similar, but my short game has improved, especially my chipping and putting. I think I have become a better player, and I think experience helps too.
She just passed her 34th birthday, and she and her husband have so much they want to do in life. This has been her livelihood, her reason for being since she turned down a future in tennis at about the age of 15. She will give this life up and start down a new path before long now. But until that day in the not-too-distant future, she is a one-word description of excellence.
Just say Annika.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.