Below the surface

By Jason SobelNovember 3, 2011, 5:01 pm

Yani Tseng knows Annika Sorenstam. The world’s current No. 1 player lives in the former house of the first-ever No. 1 player. She considers her a mentor. They speak glowingly of each other.

Call it a League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen type of connection.

There’s little doubt that in the wake of being offered a sponsor’s exemption into next season’s Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour, Tseng will consult with Sorenstam, who famously competed against the men at Colonial back in 2003. Though she didn’t make the cut, Sorenstam acquitted herself well, posting scores of 71-74, while impacting both the game and her career in ways unseen on the scorecard.

“It wasn’t about the score. It was about the journey to get there and the preparation,” Sorenstam told Golf Channel's “Morning Drive” on Thursday. “I had some great years after the Colonial. I think it prepared me for those things. For me to tee it up at Colonial with all those people there, I told myself that there’s nothing ever that’s going to be like this in my life. If I can handle this, I feel like I can handle anything.”

If Yani can reach even a fraction of the fulfillment that Annika derived from playing in a PGA Tour event, she should do it. Far too often, the biggest question surrounding a woman competing with the world’s best men – whether it’s Sorenstam, Michelle Wie or anyone else – is that of, “How will she fare?” Instead, that should be a secondary query after, “What was her impact?” and “Was she able to measure herself against the best competition?”

It appears Tseng understands that concept already. When asked last week to name her main motivation for such an appearance, she stated, “I wouldn’t care about the results, because I’d just want to enjoy the feeling of playing with guys and learning from them to further improve my skills.”

While it wouldn’t be about the results – let’s face it; we shouldn’t expect immediate success from anyone competing in their first PGA Tour event, regardless of gender – Tseng would certainly want to ensure that she picked a venue on which she could at least show off her talents.

After all, that was a priority for Sorenstam, too.

“Colonial stood out for so many reasons,” she recalled. “I just really felt like that golf course would fit my game. It’s not the longest golf course. It puts a premium on the driving, a premium on approach shots, smaller greens – which is kind of what I like. … Everything just kind of fell into place.”

And therein lies the problem for the current Rolex Ranking leader.

In her prime, Sorenstam was a ball-striker extraordinaire, a fairways-and-greens machine who rarely made unforced errors. Tseng is a much different type of player. She is the LPGA’s resident mad bomber, currently averaging 267.9 yards per drive to lead the tour.

While that number blows away her female cohorts, it would rank two yards behind the last of 186 measured players on the PGA Tour this season and 23 yards behind the mean. In short, her driving distance would go from being her greatest asset to her largest detriment.

Also unlike Sorenstam, Tseng fails to find the fairway on a somewhat regular basis. Her driving accuracy of 64.8 percent would rank 60th on the PGA Tour.

Put those numbers together and you’ll realize that Tseng may need a short, wide open course on which to succeed against male competition. Only one problem: That type of venue hardly exists on the PGA Tour schedule.

Puerto Rico Open host course Trump International Golf Club won’t include the game’s upper echelon, who will instead be teeing it up in a WGC event at Doral that week, but it does measure 7,569 yards, which is more than 1,000 yards longer than the average LPGA track. As if that number alone isn’t enough to dissuade her, there are six par-4 holes of 448 yards or longer and two par-5s that are at least 600 yards, including the 630-yard finisher.

At this year’s edition of the tournament, six players in the final top 10 averaged more than 300 yards per drive for the week, while none was below the 285 mark. Those power numbers simply don’t exist on the LPGA.

Should Tseng decide to compete in a PGA Tour event, her eyes may not be on the winner’s prize, but if she listens to Sorenstam’s advice, then finding a course which suits her game should be of the utmost priority.

It makes perfect sense. Just as a strong result – like Sorenstam’s valiant effort at Colonial eight years ago – can attract more fans to the women’s game, a poor performance can serve as a detractor, a reason for the next woman to rethink such an option when it is proposed.

Of course, just because the perfect venue for her game does not exist, that may not be enough to keep Tseng from giving it a shot. If – or perhaps when – she picks Sorenstam’s brain for guidance, comments like the following may be too impactful to ignore.

“Just the experience – interacting with the guys, interacting with the fans – everything was just amazing,” she said. “And that’s why I think about it a lot. It really changed my career, changed me as a person and I have a lot to feel thankful for from that week.”

Yani Tseng has the opportunity to feel the same way. It won’t be an easy decision – one that may be exacerbated by a lack of the ideal scenario – but let’s hope she comes to her conclusion for the right reasons, not the wrong ones..

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."