Sorenstam Singh and a Sequel

By Kraig KannJune 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
My latest column surrounds three tour professionals at the peak of their respective careers. Bart Bryant, by the way, is the name not mentioned in the title, but Ill save the best story for last.
This week the LPGA tees it up for the second of four major championships on their schedule. The big story is obvious. All eyes (sorry Michelle Wie) are on Annika Sorenstam this week at the McDonalds LPGA Championship at the Pete Dye designed Bulle Rock.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is looking to win the second leg of the LPGA's Grand Slam.
The Sorenslam watch is on. Annika won the first major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March. This week she tries to make it two for two. And given that she began the year with the single season Slam as her main focus, she cant afford to stop the roll now.
To call your shot and then do it would be pretty amazing, Meg Mallon said. She said she wanted to do it, and now shes the only one who has a chance.
True. And with 11 straight rounds in the 60s coming into the event, along with five wins in seven starts, the task of knocking her off path would appear daunting.
This week the LPGAs outgoing commissioner Ty Votaw unveiled a bright new plan to turn the season-ending event into a 32 player playoff with $1 million to the winner beginning in 2006. The LPGA Playoffs at The ADT will divide the season into two halves with the top 15 players qualifying in various ways ' plus two wildcard selections.
I think the idea is fantastic. Terrific. It rocks as the LPGA is fond of saying. And all of that ' in my opinion ' is designed to augment what Sorenstam has single-handedly done for womens golf. Shes the star. Shes the Million Dollar Baby even if she doesnt win the million bucks at the season-ender.
The best thing that could happen this year is for Annika to make good on her goal. Keep the majors coming and make the Sorenslam a thing of reality and a thing to remember. Shes the best player on her tour and the most dominant in the sport. She might not ever get the public respect she really deserves, and thats too bad. But a Sorenslam keeps her in the news, and keeps her tour in the spotlight. Good, good.
As for Vijay Singh, the worlds current No. 1 missed his second cut of the year last week at the Memorial Tournament, leaving us to wonder about his chances at next weeks U.S. Open. At present, Im still on record (read last weeks column) with Jim Furyk as my pick. But I really like what Im hearing from Singh these days.
For a while, Vijay seemed the reluctant hero. These days hes settled in and seems quite comfortable in the spotlight and the media room. Prior to the Memorial Tournament, Singh was in his native Fiji working on a project that left him able to hit just a handful of balls with someone elses club. Vijay then flew to Hawaii for some more rest and relaxation that didnt include practice (whats Vijay coming too?)
His comments after rounds of 77-74 left me impressed.
Thats no excuse, he said. If I hit the ball poorly here, I would be concerned, but Im not because I hit it great. I just couldnt make anything and then on the back nine [Friday], with nothing going in, I finally got frustrated.
Its a good test though, because it will force me to sit back and take a look at why I didnt score better. Again, thats not looking for excuses. Thats looking for explanations.
Ive always enjoyed reading GolfWorld a day or two after the tournaments. I never thought Id see quotes from Singh with such perspective after a week gone bad. Right now, Singhs at the top of his game in more ways that one. Id say you can officially throw those scores out of mind when making your office pool picks for Pinehurst.
Bart Bryant
Bart Bryant reacts to his par-saving putt on the final hole.
And finally, Bart [dont call me Brad] Bryant. The winner at the Memorial Tournament felt that he needed to validate his win last year in San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open.
If so, he sure did. Bryant ' the younger brother of Dr. Dirt now has officially one more victory than his older bro. And this time the win came with Woods, Singh, Els and other top names in the field.
At 42 years old, Bart is now officially detached from a career made more famous by mini-tour titles and outpatient surgery centers. Bryant had chances to wilt in the Ohio heat at Muirfield Village but never did.
For a man whos seen more (Q) Schools than a tenured professor, Bryant can now teach up-n-comers a thing or two about perseverance and also putting. Stats say he led the field at the Memorial. The par putt on the 18th was plenty enough to say that Bryant belongs on the PGA Tour.
Next week, by virtue of his second PGA Tour win in nine months, Bryant plays in the U.S. Open free of having to qualify on his own. Itll be just his third major championship, but as were finding out ' sometimes good things come to those who wait a little bit longer.
If youre out at Pinehurst next week, seek out Bryant and give him a holler. He deserves it!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.