All About Annika
Thats how Fulton Allem (You would think a man with two daughters would be a bit more enlightened.) represented himself, and unfortunately a certain segment of the male population, when asked about Annika Sorenstams participation in the Bank of America Colonial.
Sorenstam didnt make the cut. She didnt finish better than Allem. She showed her short game is woefully inadequate. And she may never again be seen on the PGA Tour.
She also showed that her accuracy was everything we knew it to be, and her power that much more. She showed that her machinations are not personal. That this isn't the robotic Swede were used to seeing on the LPGA Tour. That she has more light in her eyes than the brilliant Texas sun, and a smile equally as radiant. That her bulked-up frame can shoulder immeasurable amounts of pressure. And that victory sometimes lies in the shades of gray between black and white.
Did she justify her appearance? To some that was an impossible task. Her presence alone was without justification.
But cut through the mesh of cynicism and hyperbolic praise and you discover what this week was really all about. It was never male vs. female. It was never a threat to male exclusivity on the PGA Tour. It wasnt one woman representing her gender.
It was all about one woman. It was all about Annika.
It was Sorenstam testing herself, trying to discover the depths of her talent. Trying to expose herself to the masses. Trying to make herself a better player. Trying to make herself stronger.
If some were offended by her presence, so be it. If others were inspired by it, then that was a wonderful side effect, but not the primary intention.
Make no mistake; this was about Annika, and Annika alone. She didn't do it for you, or me, or millions of little girls. She did it for herself. And that's just fine. Because she's the one that took the chance. She's the one that had to live with the success or the failure.
She deserved this opportunity to be selfish. And in the end, she didnt want it to end. Yet she said shed never do it again.
And why should she? What does she have to prove that she hasnt already proven to herself? What more would there be to accomplish other than to simply make the cut ' even if she was welcomed back by a locker-room-whining lot?
We cant play on their tour, why should they play on ours?
She didnt qualify.
Shes taking up a spot in the field from a legitimate player.
These were just some of the excuses ' at least of those that were made public ' some of the PGA Tour players used in rationalizing why the worlds clear-cut No. 1 female player should have played this past week in Corning, N.Y. instead of Ft. Worth, Texas.
And yet to each of those rationales there was an obvious ifying counter-point. All you had to do was open your mind.
The objective in sport is to compete on the highest possible level. A woman competing against men is a test of limits on the extreme high end ' progression. A man competing exclusively against women ' at least on this professional level ' is regression.
No one woman could destroy the competitive fabric of the PGA Tour, but the opposite could rip apart the LPGA.
A man, even one without PGA Tour credentials, could dominate players inferior in mass and might ' on courses up to 1,000 yards inferior in accustomed length.
Even the greatest female in the game today couldnt so much as make the cut ' on a handpicked course ' despite displaying her obvious brilliance.
As for the fact that she was given a sponsors exemption to play instead of qualifying, thats the purpose of a sponsors exemption: To allow a player otherwise ineligible the chance to compete.
Invitational tournaments, like Colonial, are allotted more sponsors exemptions than regular full-field events, which get eight. A sponsor can invite any certified professional or amateur with a verified handicap of 2 or less. Using that criterion, they can invite anyone at their discretion ' from journeyman pros to past champions to local favorites to gate attractions.
Bank of America gave out a dozen exemptions this week. Of those 11 not named Annika, five missed the cut, and none were within five shots of the lead through 36 holes.
Who receives a sponsors exemption shouldnt be a topic of debate anyway ' at least for those already in the field. David Gossett was the last sponsors invitee to win a tour event, at the 2001 John Deere Classic. Its happened only three times in the last seven years.
And in talking about taking up a spot in the field, look no further than Allem himself to void that lack of logic.
Allem, who hasnt so much as made a top-10 since 1998, is still living off the 10-year exemption he earned via his 1993 NEC World Series of Golf victory.
His exemption will run out in 2004, leaving the now 46-year-old South African dependant upon sponsors exemptions in order to continue displaying his ever-increasing dead weight on the PGA Tour.
There are several players every week 'taking up a spot' with no potential of challenging.
Allem may have made it to the weekend, but at least Annika roasted the pig in one round. He opened in 75, four shots higher than the lady he mocked. Perhaps buoyed by ego and trying to avoid the ignominy of being beaten by a girl over two days, he shot 66 Friday, birdieing his final hole to make the cut on the number.
Players today tend to forget the entertainment aspect of their job. The million-dollar paydays theyre afforded come courtesy of fans and sponsors. The sponsor wanted Annika to play ' in fact, nearly 10 offered her an exemption into their tournament ' and the fans loved watching every one of her 145 swings. She provided an economic boost to the tournament, and an extensive supply of memories to the viewers ' both falling in that wonderful side-effect category.
All in all, Annikas early exit left one major question to be answered: Was her venture a successful one? Most would say yes, Annika among them. And thats the ultimate justification ' at least for one.
Because this week was all about Annika.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.