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..

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Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.


Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.


Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


"I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

"It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

"It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

They were at 7-under 135.

Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.


Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.