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..

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."