Sorenstam Self-Made Star
The road out of Bro-Balsta Golf Club in Stockholm loops around the driving range, and Tom Sorenstam couldn't help but notice the other teenagers still practicing.
``He didn't say anything when he picked me up,'' Sorenstam said. ``But when we drove away, he said, 'I just want you to know there are no shortcuts to success.' I knew what he meant. To get better, you have to practice. Just by saying that, it hurt me that I went home.
``Because I wanted to be good,'' she added. ``And I knew he was right.''
That lesson transformed Sorenstam into one of the greatest players in LPGA Tour history, one whose success comes more from determination and will than raw talent.
At 33, Sorenstam already has won 47 times and the career Grand Slam. She is seventh in career victories on the LPGA Tour; no other active player has more than 35 wins. She is the only woman to shoot 59, the only one to go over $2 million in a season (twice).
And in May, she became the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour, with two rounds at the Colonial that proved she is up to any challenge.
``I equate her to Michael Jordan,'' Meg Mallon said. ``When he came out of college, they said all he could do was dunk, so he developed a jump shot and had the best jump shot in the game. They said he wasn't a team player, so he went out and won six championships.
``She sets goals, and she achieves them. Instead of a door closing, she shoves it wide open.''
The next stop for Sorenstam is induction Monday night into the World Golf Hall of Fame, where she will be joined by Nick Price, the late Leo Diegel and Chako Higuchi, a pioneer on the Japanese LPGA Tour.
Sorenstam earned enough points from the LPGA criteria to qualify for the Hall of Fame nearly three years ago. The final requirement was 10 years on the LPGA Tour, which she completed last week.
Still, she has been too busy getting stronger in the gym, longer off the tee and as close to perfect as golf allows to grasp the magnitude of her achievements.
Sorenstam has been rehearsing her Hall of Fame speech, another example of how far she has come.
She was so shy as a junior that Sorenstam would purposely lose tournaments to avoid having to give a speech.
``I was afraid to get up there,'' she said. ``When I played, the prizes were CD players and other cool things. I wanted the prize, but I didn't want to stand up with parents and other players looking at me. It scared me. I three-putted on purpose a few times, and afterward I would come home and feel bad, because I knew I was better.''
That stopped when she miscalculated the score, won the tournament and gave her speech.
``I hated it,'' she said. ``But once it was over, it wasn't a big deal.''
She never could have imagined going on ``Today'' and ``The Tonight Show,'' or speaking to 400 reporters in the press room at Colonial.
``I'd have to say I changed,'' she said with a laugh.
Sorenstam describes herself as a late bloomer, anyway.
She didn't start playing until she was 12, splitting time with tennis until she became frustrated that the coaches at Kungsangen TK Tennis Club were devoting all their time to two of the best juniors.
``I worked so hard and didn't feel like I got any attention or anything,'' she said. ``So I said, 'Fine, I've had enough.' Golf was the perfect sport. In tennis, you always had to have a partner, and the partner always wanted someone who was a little better. In golf, I could be on my own.''
Each result made her hungrier, and soon she was good enough to get a scholarship to Arizona, where in 1991 she became the first freshman and foreign-born player to win the NCAA women's title.
Success as a pro came quickly, too.
Rookie of the year in Europe in 1993. Rookie of the year on the LPGA Tour in 1994. Player of the year in 1995, when she also won the U.S. Women's Open and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
``I had success so early, so much and so fast, that I had to take a step back and say, 'Where do you go from here?''' she said. ``I've never been in that situation. I've always been chasing somebody.''
Before long, she was chasing Karrie Webb, who was winning all the majors, all the trophies and most of the money.
Sorenstam began a punishing fitness routine that included weights, aerobics, swimming and kickboxing. She stayed on the practice green until she couldn't see. She studied her statistics in search of a weakness.
Within two years, she became more dominant on the LPGA Tour than Tiger Woods was on the PGA Tour.
And it's only gotten better.
``Some people get to No. 1 and realize they don't want to do what it takes,'' Juli Inkster said. ``Annika has no problem with that. She's always trying to get better.''
For all she has done, Sorenstam's signature moment might be missing the cut at Colonial.
No one has faced more scrutiny for playing, or more pressure over one tee shot. It became even tougher when Vijay Singh said two weeks before the tournament: ``I hope she misses the cut.''
``When I heard that comment, I was like, 'They really don't want me there.' I stepped into their territory,'' she said. ``I never looked at it like that. I want to be like them. To do that, I've got to be there and try it.''
She putted for birdie on every hole and shot a respectable 72, followed by a 3-over 75 to miss the cut by four.
Still, she was a huge hit for her courage and grace.
``People saw who I am,'' she said. ``I love to challenge myself. I'm not afraid of challenges. I have emotions and I love what I do. I was a better player when I left, even though I didn't get to play on the weekend.''
Not even Sorenstam is sure what awaits.
How much longer can she keep this up?
How much harder can she work?
She has hinted that retirement could come sooner than people think.
``It will be sad when I realize that day has come,'' she said. ``But that day, I'll feel like I'm full, complete. And I won't have motivation to practice, to push myself.''
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.