All Eyes on Annika at Womens Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 20, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 U.S. WomenIn 1960, Arnold Palmer drove the par-4 first hole at Cherry Hills Country Club en route to erasing a seven-stroke, final-round deficit and winning the U.S. Open.
Soon thereafter, the notion of a modern Grand Slam was born.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam's drive to the Grand Slam goes through Cherry Hills Country Club.
Palmer had captured each of the first two major championships of the season, and had designs on all four. His dream, however, died at St. Andrews, where he finished runner-up to Kel Nagle in the British Open.
Forty-five years later, Annika Sorenstam has arrived at Cherry Hills with hopes of doing what Palmer ' and everyone else since ' could not.
Since 1960, five players have won the first two majors of the season: Mickey Wright (1961), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Pat Bradley (1986), Tiger Woods (2002) and Sorenstam (2005).
And all have failed to secure that third victory ' at least thus far.
Sorenstam has the opportunity at this weeks U.S. Womens Open to again create history, as she attempts to become the first player ' male or female ' to win the first three legs of the modern, professional Grand Slam.
The 34-year-old Swede has not only won each of the first two majors this season, shes captured nine total for her career. But this may prove to be her toughest test yet.
Sorenstam is only two weeks removed from winning the McDonalds LPGA Championship, which means she has to reclaim her focus immediately. She also has to deal with the pressure of nearing in on the Grand Slam goal that she has stated each of the past two years.
I know its going to be a lot of pressure, Sorenstam said. Thats the goal I set, and if I want to achieve my goal, thats what I will have to accept.
At 6,749 yards (par 71), Cherry Hills is the longest layout in the 60-year history of this championship.
It also joins Hazeltine and Winged Foot as the only courses that have hosted a U.S. Open, U.S. Womens Open and U.S. Senior Open.
Five for the Title:
Annika Sorenstam
The list of favorites really begins and ends with Annika. She won this years Kraft Nabisco Championship by eight strokes. She then won the McDonalds LPGA Championship by three, despite playing the par-5s in 3 over and bogeying the final two holes. Sorenstam is a two-time winner of this event, having won back-to-back in 1995-96. But she has had more downs than ups over the last three years. In 2002, Sorenstam had a two-shot lead entering the final round, only to be passed on Sunday by a streaking Juli Inkster, who closed in 66. In 2003, she needed a birdie on the par-5 18th to win, but made bogey and missed out on a playoff by a shot. And last year, she started the final round tied for second with Meg Mallon, but couldnt keep Mallons pace and finished second. So there is hope for everyone else ' even if just a little.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie has competed in the U.S. Women's Open three times, tying for 13th last year.
Wie didnt need a hand-out to get into this major; she qualified based on her tie for 13th at the Orchards Golf Club last year. The 15-year-old has received a lot of criticism over the exemptions she has received to play on the LPGA Tour. But she fed plenty of people a plate of crow two weeks ago, when she finished runner-up to Sorenstam at the McDonalds. She has the length to compete at Cherry Hills; she just needs to improve her short game to mount a serious victory march.
Juli Inkster
Inkster denied Sorenstam the title at Prairie Dunes and shed love to do it again at Cherry Hills. A two-time winner (1999, 2002), the 45-year-old has the pedigree and the experience to possibly end Annikas Grand Slam run. Inkster, whose swing coach, Mike McGetrick, lives in nearby Denver, went head-to-head with Sorenstam earlier this year at the ShopRite Classic. Tied for the lead to start the final round, Sorenstam shot 64 to Inksters 68.
Cristie Kerr
Kerr is the top-ranked American, leading the U.S. in Solheim Cup points. She ended Sorenstams five-tournament winning streak earlier this year at the Michelob Ultra Open. It marked her fifth career tour title, and her first win with Sorenstam in the field. This will be her 10th Open appearance. She has a pair of top-5 finishes, including a runner-up showing in 2000; though, she finished five back of Karrie Webb that year. She tied for third at this years Kraft Nabisco, 10 behind Sorenstam.
Meg Mallon
The defending champion, Mallon won her second Open title by firing the lowest closing round in the championships history. Mallon shot 6-under 65 to pass third-round leader Jennifer Rosales and pull away from Sorenstam. The 42-year-old doesnt have a top-10 in nine starts this season, but she always seems to fare well at this event. Mallon has eight career top-10s in the Open, including wins in 1991 and 2004.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more players to keep an eye on
*Lorena Ochoa, who won her first title of the year at last week's Wegmans Rochester LPGA. The 24-year-old Mexican has top-10 finishes in every major except the U.S. Open. She tied for fifth at the McDonalds.
*Laura Davies, who would qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame with a win this week. Davies won this tournament in 1987 but wasnt a member of the tour. Because of that technicality, she is still two points shy from earning Hall of Fame status. She was only two behind Sorenstam after two rounds of the McDonalds, but shot 74-71 over the weekend to finish five back. Her length should be a major asset at Cherry Hills.
*Paula Creamer, who became the youngest tour winner in over 50 years this season. The 18-year-old won the Sybase Classic last month, just prior to her high school graduation. She is competing in her third Open. She tied Wie for 13th place a year ago. She also finished third at the McDonalds and was runner-up to Ochoa last week.
*Rosie Jones, who has competed in 86 major championships without a win. Jones is retiring at the end of the season. This would be a great going away gift for the 45-year-old. Shes very short off the tee, but has the short game and the grit to be a factor.
Related Links:
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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    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.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    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.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    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.

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    Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

    At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

    Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

    Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

    “Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

    In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

    “I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

    Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.