Annika Eases into Hall of Fame
Despite hitting her tee shot into the lake on the 18th hole, Sorenstam salvaged a par with a 6-foot putt that was memorable only for what it marked -- her 10th year on the LPGA Tour, the final requirement to get into the Hall of Fame.
A few fans chanted ``Hall of Fame,'' but Sorenstam didn't take time to celebrate.
She had 15 minutes to eat lunch, then headed back out to water-logged TPC at The Woodlands to start the second round of the Samsung World Championship.
She had a 2-under 70 and was one stroke behind Se Ri Pak.
``It is historic,'' said Sorenstam, the 100th member of the Hall of Fame. ``But it's tough right now. I need to absorb this, and I'm in the middle of a tournament. I've got 15 minutes before I play again. It's tough to get my emotions together.''
She has another week for that.
Sorenstam will be inducted Oct. 20 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, along with Nick Price, Chako Higuchi and Leo Diegel.
The LPGA criteria is 27 points for the Hall of Fame -- one point for a victory (majors count double), player of the year award and Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
Sorenstam reached that mark nearly three years ago and now has 63 points, but the LPGA also requires 10 years on tour before its players are eligible for the Hall of Fame.
All Sorenstam needed was to finish one round of her 15th tournament to complete 10 years. That was supposed to take place Thursday -- her birthday, no less -- but the opening round was washed out by heavy rain.
There was no celebration Friday. Instead of gathering around the 18th green to watch her finish, the rest of the 20-player field had to return to the course.
Sorenstam had to settle for an ovation on every green, and even poked fun at the anticlimactic finish to such an important milestone.
``I was thinking on the last two holes, 'Just don't fall into a hole or anything,''' she said.
She missed short birdie putts on the 15th and 16th holes that could have given her the lead, then stopped in shock when she saw her ball splash into the hazard on the 18th.
``I was surprised I hit my driver in the water,'' Sorenstam said. ``I got upset at myself and said, 'I'm going to make par there, anyway.'''
That she did, hitting a beautiful approach just left of the hole and making the putt.
She turned away and smiled after taking the ball out of the cup. Colin Cann, Pak's caddie, was the first to congratulate her. Cann was Sorenstam's caddie for the first five years of her LPGA Tour career.
It was an otherwise uneventful day, gray and gloomy with an occasional drizzle.
Sorenstam left nothing to chance about the round that got her into the Hall of Fame.
On the par-5 sixth, she laid up with a 3-wood and landed in casual water on the fairway. Because they were playing preferred lies, Sorenstam was supposed to take a drop, then lift, clean and place her ball.
Instead, she removed her ball from the puddle and placed it in the fairway -- then wasn't sure if she violated a rule. She summoned tour official Marty Robinson, who told her to repeat the procedure with no penalty.
``He said he hasn't been out here in six months, so that made me nervous,'' Sorenstam joked as she walked to the next tee. Robinson has missed half the season because of knee and back surgery.
Now that the final requirement is out of the way, Sorenstam can resume winning tournaments. She already has 47 victories, and has four tournaments left this year in a bid to reach 50.
Meantime, she has a week to work on her induction speech.
She recently sent a truck full of memorabilia for a display at the World Golf Village. The more than 80 items included trophies, shirts, caps, the traditional white robe she got for winning the Nabisco Championship, and a book her mother used to read to her when she was a little girl.
The book is called, ``Duktiga, Annika,'' which is Swedish for ``Good, 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.