What Will Unfold in 2004
The question is already being asked. What more can Sorenstam do to leave her mark on the game of golf? She is already the Tours all-time leading money winner, a member of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, has completed the LPGA Career Grand Slam, led the European Team to Solheim Cup glory on two occasions, competed on the PGA Tour, won 48 LPGA career events and has more Rolex watches than immediate family members. Sorenstam has done it all, but she will tell you what she wants: the Grand Slam, which is being referred to by some folks as the Sorenslam - to win all four major championships in the same year. Only two players, Babe Zaharias in 1950 and Mickey Wright in 1961, swept the majors in the same year, years in which there were only three and two major championship, respectively. It is a lofty goal for Sorenstam, but if she has taught golf fans around the world anything, it is to dream big and go bigger. In fact, it doesnt seem so far-fetched considering she won two majors last year and finished second and fourth in the other two.
Depth of the Tour
If 2003 was any indication of the future of the LPGA, the talent pool across the board will be very deep for many years to come. Young, emerging stars Candie Kung, Angela Stanford, Hee-Won Han and Hilary Lunke all became Rolex First- Time Winners and began to carve out their place on Tour. Not to be outdone, 40-something veterans continued to show that experience and maturity go a long way in making a career. Beth Daniel, Rosie Jones, Meg Mallon and Juli Inkster all won in 2003 and show no signs of slowing down. Will youth continue to be served in 2004, or will experience prevail and help itself to seconds?
The LPGA showcases the best womens golf the world has to offer. In 2004, there will be 96 international players representing 24 countries on Tour, and if recent history is any indication, then a good number of these players will end the year as an LPGA tournament champion. Last year, international players representing five different countries accounted for 23 wins on Tour.
With 29 LPGA rookies (13 exempt, 17 international), success is in the cards for these newcomers, and the battle for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year will be tight. Aree Song, the 17-year-old who requested and received permission from the LPGA to try and qualify for the Tour before her 18th birthday, will garner a lot of attention'not only for her age, but for her game as well. Song, who nearly won the U.S. Womens Open last year as an amateur, is a star in the making. She has made the cut in all six majors she has competed in, and no one will be surprised if she becomes the first rookie since Dorothy Delasin in 2000 to register a win. Shi Hyun Ahn is already one step ahead of Song in that she already has a win under her belt. Ahn, 19, won the 2003 CJ Nine Bridges Classic as a non-LPGA member and now is in the unique situation of beginning her rookie season as an LPGA tournament winner. Rookies Ju-Yun Kim and Reilly Rankin gained exempt status for the 2004 season by finishing in the top five on last seasons Futures Tour money list. They both know how to close out tournaments, as Kim won one title on the Futures Tour and Rankin two last year.
LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame
Karrie Webb is already a lock for the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. She has earned the requisite number of points to qualify (27) and is merely waiting to fulfill the 10- year membership requirement. Webb will qualify during the 2005 season. However, a handful of other players are on the cusp of getting those priceless points needed to reach the prestigious LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. Three wins in 2003 and her first career Vare Trophy have put Se Ri Pak within one point of the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. One win is all she needs before waiting for the Hall of Fames 10-year membership requirement, which she would meet in 2007. Laura Davies has 25 points, which leaves her just one major championship win shy of gaining entrance. Dottie Pepper, who returned last year from shoulder surgery that sidelined her in 2002, has 21 points. A player receives one point for each LPGA official tournament win and two for each LPGA major tournament victory. One point is given for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned. Entrance into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame is limited to players who meet the following criteria: must be an active LPGA Tour member for 10 years; much have won/been awarded at least one LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and must have earned 27 points.
Career Grand Slam and Super Career Grand Slam
Six players have achieved the prestigious LPGA Career Grand Slam: Louise Suggs; Mickey Wright; Pat Bradley; Juli Inkster; Annika Sorenstam; and Karrie Webb. Webb, who completed the LPGA Career Grand Slam in 2002 when she won the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, became the first player in LPGA history to achieve the Super Career Grand Slam when she won the 2002 Weetabix Womens British Open. Those active players closing in on the LPGA Career Grand Slam include Laura Davies, Meg Mallon, Se Ri Pak and Jan Stephenson, who all need to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship to achieve the Slam. If Pak accomplishes this task this season, she would become the youngest player in LPGA history to complete the LPGA Career Grand Slam (Webb currently owns that record). LPGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Famers Patty Sheehan and Betsy King both need to win the Weetabix Womens British Open to achieve the LPGA Career Grand Slam. Those closing in on the Super Career Grand Slam include Inkster, who only needs to win the Weetabix Womens British Open, and Laura Davies, Mallon and Stephenson, who need to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Weetabix Womens British Open.
Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one
Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:
Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)
What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.
Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.
Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.
Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …
Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.
Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open
Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.
Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”
The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.
Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.
“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.
Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.
“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”
South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team
South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.
Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.
Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.
Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.
So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.
Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.
The fourball results:
LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.
LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def. Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.
LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.
KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.
LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee
LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.
NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.
Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer
In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.
The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.
Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.
“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”
Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.
Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.
This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.
Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.
Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.
The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.
Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”
Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”
The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.
First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.
“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”
A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.
“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.
For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.
Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.
“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “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.”
Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?
“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”
Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.
Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.
Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.
Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.
“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”
Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.
While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.