Ms 59 Returns to the Site of Her Success

By Martha BrendleMarch 11, 2002, 5:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam ' winner of two titles this season - headlines the 144-woman field set to compete in the PING Banner Health Thursday through Sunday at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, Ariz. This years event boasts $1 million in prize money.
 
The 6,459 yard par-72 Moon Valley course is the site where, just one short year ago, the Swedish sensation made history by becoming the first women in history to record a 59 in competition.
 
Her long-time vision of completing the perfect round of 54 strokes seemed within her grasp as she made the turn, and although she fell five strokes short of the goal, the fiercely competitive Swedish native was not disappointed.
 
Moon Valley, fresh off a facelift in 2001 that increased bunkers from 60 to 93, was no match for the steely conviction of Sorenstam. Nor was fellow competitor Se Ri Pak, who ultimately fell two strokes short of a victory.
 
Pak returns to Moon Valley, making her 2002 debut appearance at as does Karrie Webb. 'I feel like for me I was not ready yet,' Pak said when asked why she did not participate in the Hawaiian events. 'I needed more time, time to think about season, just more time to get ready.'
 
Webb, like Sorenstam, is already enjoying a successful season. She starts the LPGA Tour season fresh off her win at the AAMI Australian Womens Open at Yarra Yarra Golf Club. But one cannot help but wonder ' in light of the fact that Sorenstam denied Webb of her fifth consecutive victory at the ANZ Ladies Masters in Queensland ' if Webb has something in store for her nemesis.
 
Non-exempt rookie Marine Monnet of St. Lom La Bretche, France, and Mexicos Lorena Ochoa - a sophomore at the University of Arizona ' were the recipients of sponsor exemptions for this week's play.
 
Monnet, Rookie of the Year in 2000 on the European tour, is only one of nine rookies competing this week. The others are Beth Bauer, Jeanne-Marie Busuttil, Angela Buzminski, Natalie Gulbis, Shiho Katano, Jung Yeon Lee, Sun Hee Lee and JoAnne Mills.
 
Just as the PING Banner Health gets under way, the first ever LPGA Player Summit wraps up. (Read Adam Barr's report.) LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw made the summit a mandatory event for every player scheduled to compete in Phoenix this week.
 
The environment in which we compete has drastically changed over the last decade, Votaw stated. We cannot look at ourselves as just a professional golf organization.
 
We are in the sports and entertainment business. We need to continue to give our fans a reason to come out and watch us play, tune in to the tournaments, and follow the Tour week after week. The summit is designed to give the players a clear understanding on what it is going to take to successfully compete in this sports entertainment arena.
 
Certainly Annika and Lorie Kane gave us reason to tune in last week at the Takefuji. The question that remains is whether they ' and the rest of the tour - can do it on a regular bases week after week, season after seasonStarting now.
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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.