Annika the Best but Not Invincible

By Mercer BaggsJuly 26, 2004, 4:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam is vincible. Its actually a word. I looked it up. It means exactly what you think it would mean: the opposite of invincible.
 
Sorenstam held a three-stroke lead entering the final round of this past weeks Evian Masters in Evian-les-Baines, France. And, for some reason, the rest of the field still decided to wake up and play 18 holes Saturday, the final day of the tournament, instead of hopping on a plane and getting a jump on the upcoming Womens British Open in England.
 
And, you know what? Annika lost. To Wendy Doolan. Thats unpossible! (OK, thats not a word.) But what was thought to be impossible was just improbable, and in the end quite possible.
 
Sorenstam is the most fearful figure on any respective tour. Tiger Woods owned that title of intimidation until recently. But players no longer shriek and shrivel when Woods name nears the top of the leaderboard.
 
That was obvious earlier this year when Woods held the outright 36-hole lead in back-to-back weeks, at the Wachovia Championship and EDS Byron Nelson Championship, and failed to win either.
 
Time and again, Woods has won by simply being the front-runner. He's posted mediocre scores and not been tackled from behind because others were afraid to get close to him.
 
But no one backed down from Woods at the Wachovia ' even though they were well aware that he had won 18 consecutive PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the midway lead.
 
This time, he wasn't able to get away with mediocrity.
 
And after seeing him finally fail to close, it had to be a little easier to stare him down in Dallas the following weekend.
 
Yet despite Tigers failures this season, he has yet to blow a 54-hole lead. Yet. That may be because he has yet to hold a 54-hole lead this season. And if he were to do that ' stumble as a pacesetter on Sunday, that would surely be the surest sign that Superman has entered his Fortress of Solitude and become mortal ' that Tiger, too, is vincible.
 
Woods has had some quite memorable and dramatic come-from-behind performances in his career ' just ask Steve Scott or Matt Gogel. But he became golfs Intimidator by consistently, opportunity after opportunity sealing the deal on Sunday. Thirty-two times on the PGA Tour he has held at least a share of the lead entering the final round; 30 times he has won.
 
Sorenstam, on the other hand, isnt as surefire a bet to finish what she started.
 
She has 55 times (according to golfstats.com) taken at least a share of the lead into the final round on the LPGA Tour and 34 times come out victorious.
 
Fifty-five times?!? Thats a staggering amount, but you have to consider this includes 18 times when she held the lead heading into the final round in a 54-hole event and 37 times when she did the same in a 72-hole event.
 
The key to finishing ahead of the Mighty Annika, when shes nearing the summit, ready to plant her flag, is to extend the race to the top.
 
At least thats the story the statistics tell.
 
You might think that the longer the event ' 72 holes as opposed to 54 holes, the greater the advantage it would be to Annika. After all, there is less likelihood for an upset with an additional 18 holes tacked on at the end.
 
But Sorenstam seems to fare better in the 800 meters than in the mile.
 
She has won 12 of the last 13 ' and eight straight ' when holding at least of share of the lead heading into the final round of a 54-hole tournament. For her career, she is 13-for-18 in converting such leads into victory.
 
By contrast, she has won only six of the last 13 tournaments when taking at least a share of the lead into the final round of a 72-hole event. She is 21-for-37 under this scenario.
 
What does it all say? Well, it says that Annika has put herself in position to win an unbelievable amount of times. It says that 34 of her 52 career LPGA Tour victories have come when setting the final-round pace. That means she has 18 come-from-behind victories on the LPGA Tour. Woods, by comparison, has 38 career stroke-play victories (and two Match Play titles) on the PGA Tour, and only eight have been by way of comeback.
 
It says that you should be fearful of Annika when she lurks behind you, and hopeful when shes ahead.
 
And it says that, amazingly, she could have many more titles to her credit.
 
Yes, Annika Sorenstam is better ' and more intimidating to her peers ' than anyone on any tour. But she is vincible, as well.
 
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.