Third Win for Webb Would Be Charming

By Martha BrendleJuly 1, 2002, 4:00 pm
Defending champion Karrie Webb will have to reach deep within herself in order to successfully defend her title this week. For nestled in a historically strong field is Swedens female golfing icon - Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam is the sure bet going into the U.S. Womens Open, being played for the first time at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., July 4-7.
Everything is all going my way, the very confident Sorenstam said after her win at the ShopRite Classic Sunday.
The Swede is the obvious spoilsport to Webbs dream of winning three consecutive USGA championships.
Confidence is something that Webb, No. 6 on the money list, currently struggles with as she battles the residuals of a swing change that has left her with a left-to-right fade.
Efforts to get the club in front of her have, thus far, left her behind this season. Yet Webb has a good Open track record on her side. In her six appearances, she has never missed a cut, has recorded two top-10 finishes (fourth in 1997 and seventh in 1999) and has two victories to her credit.

Sorenstams 2001 season performance (she set or tied 30 records) was a tough act to follow, and yet somehow the soft-spoken Swede has not disappointed. Armed with Kai Fusser, her latest and greatest personal trainer, and 'Vision 54' (18 birdies in a single round), Sorenstam has stormed through the first half of the year recording five victories and 10 top-five finishes in 11 starts. Sunday, she recorded a bogey-free final round 5-under-par 66, resulting in a three-stroke victory at the ShopRite LPGA Classic ' her second victory in as many starts.
Her recent success is no accident. It is, in fact, part of a well-oiled plan - the culmination of fierce determination and relentless focus. I definitely feel that I am hitting better this year and what I mean by that is that I am more solid, and especially with my long irons, the No. 1 player in the world said. My drives, according to the stats, are 10 to 12 yards longer and the accuracy is good and I am up there in greens in regulations and I am also putting better. My scoring average is lower and I am better than last year so far this year.
Sorenstam has been working with Fusser for a mere seven months and is already seeing progress - although she thinks it will be more like a year-and-a-half until the full benefits of her new regime come to fruition.
Ive won a lot, and I love to win. I think with the more Ive won, I realize how much winning means to me. It never gets old. Actually, it makes me want more of it ' its an addictive feeling,' she said.
'I know there are more records I can break and I want to see how good I can be and I feel like all my hard work that Ive put in, Im now seeing the results and I know I have not reached my peak yet so Im going to push and push, and see how far I can go.'
The USGA will do its best to create perfect conditions for this years U.S. Womens Open. The worlds top 150 female players, professionals and amateurs alike, will face green speeds of 10 on the Stimpmeter, rough projected to be 3 inches deep and native tall grasses - all of which have the potential to wreak havoc with their games as they play the 6,293-yard, par-70 course. In addition, if wind at Prairie Dunes C.C. comes into play, errant shots will be severely penalized.
Prairie Dunes C.C. has an interesting history. The 18-hole course was built in two stages over a period of 20 years. Perry Maxwell designed the front nine which opened in 1937 and his son Press Maxwell designed the back nine, which opened in 1957.
Chip Shots:
There are two ways to tell the Wongluekiet twins apart this week. Naree has had her braces removed and will be watching golf from outside the ropes while Aree, still sporting her metallic smile, has qualified to play.
After finishing second at the ShopRite Classic Sunday, Julie Inkster made arrangements to spend Monday with her swing coach Mike McGetrick. Inkster, who won the 1999 Open at Old Waverly G.C., also won the first of three consecutive U.S. Women's Amateur titles at Prairie Dunes in 1980.
Amateur Stacy Prammanasudh of Tulsa, Okla., has Annika Sorenstam to thank for making it into the field. Prammanasudh qualified after Sorenstam won the ShopRite title.
Full Field for the U.S. Women's Open
Tee Times
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Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1