LPGA Hoping to Carry Annika Momentum

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
AURORA, Ill. (AP) -- Laura Diaz remembers making her way to the putting green as Annika Sorenstam teed off in her first tournament of the year, passing fans who had lined up eight deep.
That kind of crowd usually only shows up for a U.S. Open. And this was still two months before the Colonial.
So just imagine the turnout at this weekend's Kellogg-Keebler Classic, when Sorenstam returns to the LPGA Tour after a brief, but historic foray onto the PGA Tour.
'What she did last week at Colonial is going to have a lifetime effect on the LPGA Tour,' Diaz said Wednesday. 'Not only did she bring new fans, but those are people who rooted her on. They weren't just fans for a week. Those are going to be fans for a lifetime.'
Sorenstam missed the cut at the Colonial, but she won the adoration of millions worldwide with her gutty, graceful performance. She proved she has the game to keep up with the big boys, shooting 71-74 on a 7,080-yard course that's the longest and toughest she's faced.
And she did it despite facing more pressure than any golfer -- any athlete, perhaps -- has ever had. Every shot was televised, every move she made analyzed.
'It was just so overwhelming,' Rosie Jones said. 'She elevated the game of golf not only for women, but golf itself. She's elevated the tour by her presence.'
Sorenstam insisted she played the Colonial simply to test herself against the best players in the world, not to prove a point about the LPGA Tour or women's golf.
But Diaz said there can't help but be some carryover.
'When fans come and they watch us play, I think they're going to see that all of the women can play,' Diaz said. 'It's just incredible what she did. Playing in front of that many people and playing so well, it's just awesome. I have a feeling we're going to see those crowds this week.'
Indeed, advance ticket sales for the Kellogg-Keebler Classic are up 50 percent, and a large crowd is expected for Sorenstam's appearance in Thursday's pro-am. Even though Tiger Woods is playing his first PGA Tour event since the Masters, media interest in the 54-hole tournament has more than doubled.
It doesn't hurt that Sorenstam is the defending champion of the event, which starts Friday.
'I think she's earned a tremendous amount of respect and showed a lot of people that, `Hey, the women on the LPGA Tour are good players.' I think that that's the biggest impact it's going to have,' Kelli Kuehne said. 'Do I think in the future it could do something with interest and fans coming out? Certainly -- but I think it's a little too soon to possibly tell.
'I think we'll see the effects a lot more come the middle part of our summer, when people are still talking about it,' Kuehne added. 'We're one week after the event. I don't think it's completely sunken in yet.'
Sorenstam doesn't plan to play on the PGA Tour again, saying the Colonial was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Few women seem eager to follow her trailblazing, either.
Suzy Whaley, a Connecticut club pro, will play the Greater Hartford Open in July. Teenage phenom Michelle Wie has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play on the Nationwide Tour in September, and has also been invited to play a stop on the Canadian Tour.
But most are content with the LPGA Tour.
'I still believe the LPGA is where women golfers belong,' Kuehne said. 'I don't hold it against people who play in a PGA Tour event, by any means. But I just think that the LPGA Tour is a great, strong product. And Annika is integral to our product.'

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.