Sorenstam Achieving All Her Goals

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 4, 2003, 4:00 pm
It seemed like a small step for her, and easy to overlook, because it came so soon after her giant leap for womankind.
 
But winning the British Open on Sunday meant the world to Annika Sorenstam. And maybe it won't end with her.
 
Capturing the final major (and her second) of the season made the Swede only the sixth female golfer ever to accomplish a career Grand Slam. But those things weren't driving Sorenstam down the stretch at Royal Lytham. This win wasn't about proving something to others as much as proving something very important to herself.
 
Sorenstam put her game and her personality under the microscope by displaying both at the Colonial in May. Fifty-eight years had passed since a woman tested herself against men on the PGA Tour, and as long as Sorenstam lasted, it looked and felt like anybody who'd ever had an opinion on the subject found a way inside the gates.
 
The galleries on some holes were eight deep. The course crackled for two entire days. There were moments when the electricity rose to the level of Nicklaus making a final-day surge at the Masters.
 
But generating all that buzz came with costs -- short- and long-term.
 
As resolute and patient as Sorenstam was during the first round at Colonial was how overmatched and frayed she looked by the close of the second. She walked off the 18th green that day in tears, but that shouldn't have been anybody's lasting memory, either.
 
Sorenstam didn't agree to become one of the more interesting Rohrshach tests that sports has devised without getting something in return. And that was learning how to play golf under extreme duress. To remember how it felt to stand in the fairway under an open sky and feel like there wasn't enough oxygen to go around -- yet still find enough to draw the club back calmly and pull off the shot.
 
'Like I said, this is what it's all about: to have a chance to win a major championship where you've just got to perform,' Sorenstam said afterward. 'I'm nervous, but I love it at the same time. It's kind of a combination.'
 
Up until Sunday, the same could be said about her Colonial experiment: The results were mixed.
 
In June, Sorenstam played steely golf over the closing holes to win the LPGA Championship, delivering one clutch shot after another to force a sudden-death playoff against Grace Park and win on the first extra hole.
 
But at last month's U.S. Open, the opposite happened. With a chance to slam the door on the 18th hole, Sorenstam kicked a 4-wood into some trees, made bogey and finished out of a playoff.
 
A few days later, she withdrew after just six holes of the Canadian Women's Open, citing sickness and exhaustion. The only person who seemed surprised at the time was Sorenstam herself.
 
'I learned that I can't go 100 percent every single day,' she said. 'I have enjoyed pretty much everything since I decided to play Colonial. But I've been nonstop.'
 
Against that backdrop, the British looked tough enough. It already held the best field of the season and empty memories for Sorenstam -- a runner-up three times. This time, though, she didn't get the lead until the 65th hole and parred the last three to keep it.
 
'I was very nervous on the first tee, and I was very nervous on the last three holes. It's funny how the emotions works, but I hit some great shots when I needed to,' Sorenstam said.
 
'That's all the hard work. I mean, that's why I hit balls at night, that's why I hit so many putts, that's why I go to the gym, to be in this situation, and then to win. That's what motivates me and keeps me going,' she said. 'I love it.'
 
You don't know whether to feel happy for Sorenstam, because this moves her closer to the best women golfers of all time, or sad because no matter what she accomplishes, nothing will likely eclipse the memory of her two rounds playing men. Then again, blazing a trail isn't supposed to be easy.
 
Sorenstam has done her part to clear the path and shared in some of the rewards. She now has six majors and back-to-back seasons that would make Tiger Woods look as if he really was in a slump. More important, Sorenstam's willingness to temper her competitive nature with experience suggests she can get better.
 
She is 32, just two years younger than Mickey Wright was when she quit playing full-time. Wright was the greatest women's player ever -- even Hogan called her swing the best he'd ever seen -- but she was effectively off the LPGA Tour by 1969, no longer up to the burden of carrying the flag for an entire sport.
 
Since then, Nancy Lopez and a few others have taken it up. Now it's Sorenstam's turn. There will be a woman playing regularly on the PGA Tour someday, and while it won't be her, chances are good Sorenstam will have a good view of the moment from where she planted the flag.
Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x