Annika Begins Grand Slam Quest

By Lpga Tour MediaMarch 22, 2005, 5:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - With three tournaments in the books, it's time to get serious.
And it doesn't get any more serious than a major championship. This week, 98 players are looking to take the traditional and memorable leap from the 18th green into Champions Lake at the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
For four days, the top professionals and amateurs in the world will battle for the $1.8 million purse on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Grace Park took the victor's dive at the 18th last year after running in a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole to claim a one-shot win over Aree Song for her first major championship title. Song and Park were co-leaders after the third round and the duo dueled all day on Sunday. Trailing by one on the 18th, Song reached the par-5 final hole in two and made her 30-foot eagle putt to pull even with Park, setting up a dramatic finish in which Park rose to the occasion and sank the winning putt.
With one of the most elite fields of the year, every player had to earn an invitation to the Kraft Nabisco Championship and most certainly will have to work hard to earn the title.
Annika Sorenstam once again begins her quest for the coveted Grand Slam, or perhaps more appropriately named the Sorenslam, as she chases history in her bid to win all four major championships in one calendar year. Sorenstam has won at least one major every year since 2001 and was two shots away from a chance at the Sorenslam in 2003.
Sorenstam, who with a win this week can tie Nancy Lopez's record of five consecutive wins in tournaments played, claimed back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championship titles in 2001 and 2002 and won the Weetabix Women's British Open in 2003 to finish off the LPGA Career Grand Slam. In 2001, Sorenstam became the only player in LPGA history to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship after winning the week before, a feat she could replicate should she win her third Kraft Nabisco Championship title after taking home the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola trophy last week.
With all of that on the line, however, Sorenstam remains dialed in on one
goal: winning the four major championships.
'All I want to do is win majors, and that's my focus this year,' said Sorenstam last week in Phoenix.
Sorenstam, Park and Song are three of the top players, but they aren't the only ones in contention for the title this week. Karrie Webb, winner of the 2000 Kraft Nabisco Championship, finished third a year ago, just two shots behind Park. Lorena Ochoa, who placed second to Sorenstam at last week's Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola, traditionally plays well at Mission Hills.
Another player to watch is Japanese teenage sensation Ai Miyazato, making her debut in the United States courtesy of a sponsor exemption. Miyazato won five times on the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour last year to finish second on the season-ending money list.
Other players who received a sponsor's exemption this year include professionals Stephanie Arricau, Yuri Fudoh, Trish Johnson, Leta Lindley, Joo Mi Kim, Catrin Nilsmark and Bo Bae Song; and amateur standouts Julieta Granada, Brittany Laing, Jane Park, Morgan Pressel, Karen Sjodin and Michelle Wie, who finished fourth at last year's event.
And don't count out a player repeating Park's feat of winning her first major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Since becoming a major championship in 1983, 10 players have won their first major title at Mission Hills, including LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Juli Inkster in 1984 and Betsy King in 1987.
Other players to win their first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship include Alice Miller, Dottie Pepper, Donna Andrews, Nanci Bowen, Pat Hurst and the two most recent champions, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Park.
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    Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x