Annika One for All Time

By Mercer BaggsMarch 27, 2005, 5:00 pm
It's about 3:00 p.m. on the eastern coast. The ladies are playing a major out west. It's only Saturday, and there is still a round and a half to play. Annika Sorenstam has a four-shot lead.

Take all of this information and factor it into an equation; the output equals: get started writing.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam rules the LPGA Tour winner's circle with an iron fist.
Why waste time waiting until it's over? A column has to fill this space come Sunday evening. And with a whole bunch of nothing happening over in Ponte Vedra Beach; theres only one thing ' one person ' to talk about: Annika Sorenstam.
 
Sorenstam really hasnt been talked about that much this season. For one reason, much of the media and public attention has focused on the great happenings (weather malfunctions not withstanding) transpiring on the PGA Tour.
 
And for another, the LPGA season didnt begin until nearly March.
 
But now its time to shine a serious spotlight on a lady who shined blindingly since the calendar turned 2000.
 
About five hours after initially looking at the Kraft Nabisco Championship leaderboard and seeing that Sorenstam had distanced herself rather comfortably from 36-hole co-leader Rosie Jones, I took another peek to see that the advantage was finalized at five.
 
And so Saturday night I began to pick up at home where my writings had left off at work ' until NCAA basketball and procrastination consumed me.
 
And so Sunday afternoon I began to pick up at work where my writings had left off at home.
 
Ive gambled enough in my life to know that Ill never win as much as I'll lose. But I was willing to wager said house on a Sorenstam victory.
 
Sometimes she makes it interesting. Shes like Muhammad Ali when he fought Ernie Terrell and Floyd Patterson. She almost carries her opponents along until she wants to knock them out at her own leisure.
 
But she always ' almost always ' seems to win. And this time she won by eight, birdying three of her first five holes at Mission Hills Country Club to make it an early TKO.
 
It really didn't matter who her closest opposition was. Not Rosie Jones, nor Cristie Kerr, nor Michelle Wie, nor Grace Park was going to make up that many shots on Sorenstam.
 
Sure she blew a three-stroke lead to Wendy Doolan at last years Evian Masters. But this lead was five. And this was a major. And this might be the best that Annikas ever played.
 
And the best that Annikas ever played might be the best that anyone has ever played on the LPGA Tour ' ever.
 
It might not have mattered if Nancy Lopez or Kathy Whitworth or Mickey Wright or any other legend in her prime was playing in the final threesome with Annika this Sunday.
 
Her nickname should be All Time ' Annika All Time Sorenstam. Because everything she does is either the best or comparable to the best of all time.
 
When it all comes clear at the end of her career, Sorenstam may not own all of the tours prominent records. She may not eclipse Whitworths mark of 88 victories. But whatever she ultimately accomplishes will have come during the most competitive time ' from top to bottom ' in tour history.
 
'We may be witnessing the best player in the history of women's golf,' said fellow Hall of Fame member Judy Rankin, who has just about seen 'em all, at the end of Sunday's telecast.
 
Annika has 59 tour wins in her career ' 36 in a shade over four seasons ' for fourth on the all-time list. Shes been named player of the year seven times, tying Whitworth for the all-time mark. Shes topped the money list seven times, one shy of Whitworths all-time record. She has won the Vare Trophy for lowest seasonal scoring average five times ' and would have tied Whitworths all-time record of seven had she competed in the requisite 70 rounds each of the last two seasons.
 
Her scoring averages over the last four years are the four lowest in tour history. She holds outright the all-time records for score in relation to par over 18, 36, 54 and 72 holes.
 
She now has eight major titles to her credit, tying her for fifth all-time. And ' most importantly to her at the moment, she still has a shot at becoming the first female to complete the seasonal Grand Slam.
 
Now, eventually she has to lose.
 
Joseph Stalin said (Stalin and Sorenstam?): History shows that there are no invincible armies. Annika is unquestionably the best of her era, and arguably the best of any era.
 
But eventually she has to lose. Or quit.
 
Right now her winning streak has reached five consecutive tournaments, tying the all-time record set by Nancy Lopez. Lopez accomplished this feat in her rookie season of 1978. Sorenstam won her final two starts in 2004 and her first three in '05. That makes it all-the-more impressive in favor of Annika. There was a three-and-a-half month gap between her final start last year and her first this season.
 
Annika's not riding a hot streak. She's a human flame who can't be extinguished.
 
'I think she's awesome,' Lopez said. 'I don't think anybody in the sports world gives her enough credit for what she has done and what she's accomplished and I think really, and truly she's better than Tiger Woods.
 
'We have a lot of great players out here and nobody is even coming close to her.'
 
Forget about a Big 3 or a Big 4 or a Big 5 in the women's world; No. 1's so considerable, there just isn't enough room for anyone else. In fact, she's so big, so much better at the moment than every other female golfer, that there's not even a clear-cut No. 2.
 
Who's the second best player right now on the LPGA? There's no overwhelming answer. Theres Annika and then theres everyone else.
 
Karrie Webb? Se Ri Pak? Where'd you go? Where's the challenge? Sorenstam has been so dominating over the last four or five years that she has gradually buried Webb and Pak ' her Hall-of-Fame peers! ' deep in the dark of her shadow.
 
Lorena Ochoa? Michelle Wie? Paula Creamer? Park? Kerr? Each of them has a chance to reach the top of the women's game. But if and when they do, it will likely be because there is no more Annika.
 
Eventually Annika has to lose. And eventually she has to retire.
 
She's been hinting at such a thing for the past few years. But one of the major reasons the talk of retirement was so persistent was because she wanted to start a family. Now there is no husband, which means there won't likely be any little Annikas running around in the very near future. Which means Sorenstam won't be stepping aside in the very near future.
 
There's a debate as to whether or not this is a good thing.
 
On one side, there is the group thought that Annika's absence would again lead to parity on the LPGA. This would be good for the whole of the tour. On the other side, there is the group thought that as soon as Annika moves on, so will public interest. Annika isn't just the face of the LPGA; she is the LPGA ' so they believe.
 
As Carl Spackler once said: Id keep playing.
 
Until family becomes her primary focus, the extent of her competing will likely be based on her level of concern. Its hard to imagine that anyone could actually get tired of winning. But when youre at the level of an Annika Sorenstam, enthusiasm is directly related to challenges.
 
And if no one else is going to offer up that challenge, then its up to Annika to find ways to test herself ' whether it be competing against men, winning all four majors in the same season, or completely re-writing the history books in her own ink.
 
We, as fans, will just have to enjoy things in the present time. Annika certainly is.
 
'I've always said that if I enjoy playing this game, I'm going to continue to play it,' she said. 'Obviously right now I'm very much enjoying it.'
 
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.