Pak Places Title on the Line at Bulle Rock

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- A race for the record books will be underway at this week's 53rd annual McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola, as both Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak will be battling for what could be their historic fourth victories in the event at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md.
 
Upon the completion of Thursday's first round, Pak will officially be the first South Korean to enter the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. With 23 career victories, the defending champion Pak has more than enough points to be eligible for the Halls of Fame. The 1998 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year only needs to complete 10 events in 2007 to fulfill the final requirement of 10 years of Tour membership.
 
Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak is seeking her first win since the 2006 McDonald's LPGA Championship. (Getty Images)
Should Sorenstam (2003, 2004, 2005) or Pak (1998, 2002, 2006) win this week and take home the $300,000 first-place check from the $2 million purse, it would tie either of them with Mickey Wright (1958, 1960, 1961, 1963) for the most wins at this event in LPGA Tour history. In 2005, Sorenstam's win made her the first LPGA player to win a the same major in three consecutive years, while Pak's one-hole playoff victory over Karrie Webb in 2006 broke a two-year streak without a win.
 
In 1998, Pak became the first rookie since Liselotte Neumann (1988) to win a major as her first Tour victory after posting a wire-to-wire win. Pak's win at the event in 2002 made her the youngest player to win four majors at 24 years, 8 months and 11 days.
 
Also headlining the week's event is Rolex Rankings leaders and world number one Lorena Ochoa, who tops the 2007 LPGA Official Money List with $1,200,982 and is the only player to earn more than $1 million this year. Ochoa has two wins to her name this season and is the only player in 2007 to successfully defend a title after winning the Sybase Classic presented by ShopRite. Ochoa has yet to win a major despite tallying 11 victories since 2004.
 
On April 1, Morgan Pressel became the youngest player to win a major at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days, at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She is the only player on Tour with a chance at the season Grand Slam, in which a player wins all four LPGA Tour majors in the same season.
 
The winner of this week's McDonald's LPGA Championship will earn a spot in the season-ending ADT Championship that features a $1 million first-place check, as well as the 2007 Samsung World Championship and Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions.
 
Here are the favorites at the second major championship of the LPGA Tour season:
 
Se Ri Pak
We start with the defending champion. In nine career starts at the McDonalds LPGA, Pak has three wins, including last years career reviver at Bulle Rock. Pak missed the cut last week at the Ginn Tribute, but prior to that, she hadnt finished worse than tied 13th in her previous five starts. She will try and become the sixth player to successfully defend her title in this event.
 
Karrie Webb
Meanwhile, Webb will try and accomplish something that has happened four times prior at the McDonalds LPGA. Webb is trying to go from runner-up one year to winner the next. Webb won this tournament in 2001 and has a tie for 20th and a playoff loss in two starts at this site. Webb began 2007 by winning back-to-back weeks in Australia, but she is still in search of her first win of the season on the LPGA Tour.
 
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa is trying to overcome a playoff loss last week. (Getty Images)
Lorena Ochoa
Upsets are not the norm at this major championship. In fact, Chris Johnson, back in 1997, is the last winner who isnt a current Hall of Fame member (Pak will officially be eligible after this event). Ochoa isnt a surefire Hall of Famer, but shes headed in the right direction. She just needs to add a few majors to her resume. She would love to start this week. Ochoa, who lost in a playoff last week, has finished inside the top 10 each of the last three LPGA Championships.
 
Cristie Kerr
Another player whose career could use a major boost is Kerr. Despite having eight wins over the last three full seasons, the 29-year-old has yet to be crowned a major champion. Kerr has nine top-5 showings in majors, including a tie for fifth at this event a year ago. She wilted a little bit under the back-nine pressure Sunday in South Carolina, but her third-place finish was her best of the season.
 
Pat Hurst
Hursts name doesnt usually come up when talking about major favorites, but she has a good track record in the big events. Hurst won the 1998 Kraft Nabisco and has seven other top-10s in majors. Hurst lost to Sorenstam in an 18-hole playoff at last years U.S. Womens Open and has cracked the top 10 each of her two appearances at Bulle Rock.
 
Four more to keep an eye on at Bulle Rock Golf Course:
 
Annika Sorenstam
It almost seems sinful to not include Sorenstam among the top 5 favorites. But given her layoff due to injury and her relatively poor showing last week in her own event, it would seem unlikely that she would be able to contend for four rounds. Still, she worth keeping an eye on this week as she has won this event from 2003-2005, the last of which occurred at Bulle Rock. She also tied for ninth last year.
 
Morgan Pressel
Pressel technically is the only player with a chance to win the seasonal Grand Slam, having already won the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has played this tournament only once, tying for 69th.
 
Laura Davies
A win this week would put Davies into the Hall of Fame. She is a two-time LPGA Championship winner, doing so in 1994 and 96. She tied for third on this course in 2005.
 
Michelle Wie
It will be quite interesting to see how Wie fares this week. Anything, it would seem, is possible. Given her record in this event (T5 in 2006; T2 in 2005), it wouldn't come as a huge shocker if she contended for the title. Given her recent performance, it also wouldn't be too surprising if she didn't make it to the weekend -- or maybe even to Friday.
 
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    Information from LPGA Tour media was used in this story.
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.