Annika Still The Greatest

By Mercer BaggsJuly 3, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 U.S. Womens OpenAnnika Sorenstam didnt need to win the U.S. Womens Open to prove her greatness. She didnt need to ever win again to prove that.
But this victory does prove something ' shes still the greatest dame in the game today.
Not Karrie, not Se Ri, not Lorena, not Michelle, not Paula. Annika.
Compared to seasons past, at least leading up to this event at Newport Country Club, this one had paled in terms of accomplishment. Usually by this time, Sorenstam has already picked up a handful of victories as well as a major championship or two. In fact, from 2000-05, Sorenstam averaged five wins and one major title ' all before the Womens Open. Thats not one fluke, bountiful half-season; thats just her average, regular performance leading up to the LPGA Tours biggest event.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has won at least one major in six straight seasons.
If that was average, then this season had been below average -- had been.
Entering this week, Sorenstam had played nine times and hadnt hoisted a trophy since her season-opener in Mexico. Eight events without a win. No big deal, huh? Well, she hadnt experienced a drought like that since she played 10 straight winless tournaments in 2001.
Annika is a numbers girl ' she loves them, bases her worth as a player on them. And her numbers are absolutely ridiculous ' stupid good. The two most important numbers are 68 and 10. Those are her overall tour victories and her major championship titles, respectively. Shes 20 back of Kathy Whitworth in the former department, and five behind Patty Berg in the latter.
Shes now won as many major championships as has Tiger Woods, and tied him, coincidentally, on the same course that he won his second U.S. Amateur Championship.
And, she's now won at least one major for the sixth straight season. Ask Tiger how impressive that is.
This may well have been the biggest victory of her career. Not just based on her start to the season, but because the games greatest player ' perhaps the greatest of all-time ' hadnt won the games most precious prize in a decade.
These particular numbers didnt add up. Sorenstam was capable of winning any and every tournament, the whole world over, many times over, and yet she couldnt win this one.
This was the tournament that Sorenstams game was built to win. Her length, her precision, her mental make-up, her dominant presence ' perfect for winning the Open. And yet she hadnt since 1996, when she successfully defended her Womens Open title.
Its almost comical watching Annika winning the Open in 95 and 96. Appearance alone, she looks like a totally different person than she does nowadays ' and, I suppose, she really is.
No longer does she look the part of the frail, shy Swede who needed two hands plus a little extra help to hold the Open trophy over her head. Now, she can curl that sucker left-handed alone and stuff anyone inside who dares try and take it away.
Speaking of her physical make-up, it had to give her quite an advantage over Pat Hurst in the playoff, which she won by four strokes with a 1-under 70. Without being mean-spirited, theres quite a contrast between the two bodies, and after having played 36 holes on Sunday ' under very trying elemental conditions, on a U.S. Open venue ' Sorenstams fitness on Monday had to tip the scales in her favor (no pun intended); that plus the fact that Sorenstam held a 2-0 advantage over Hurst in previous playoffs.
Speaking of playoffs, the USGA would do well to abandon their 18-hole, next-day format. Perhaps it was a plausible system in the past; though, Ive always felt it was a bit excessive. It just seems like such a momentum killer. Youve got all this excitement at the conclusion of regulation, not to mention all of these fans in attendance and millions of people watching at home, and you just pull the plug and delay both resolution and gratification.
Now, the players have to prepare themselves for one more day of golf; patrons have to go home with an empty feeling; those fans and the ones at home may not even get to see the conclusion because of Monday work; and if they do get to see it on TV, big whoop ' a two- or three-person, stroke-play, 18-hole playoff is the reason God allowed man to create the remote control. And, speaking from experience, a Monday finish, under any circumstance, is a huge pain in the posterior for anyone covering the tournament.
If the USGA, or any of their proponents, find sudden death too finicky, then adopt a cumulative, 3- or 4-hole, day-of playoff system like the ones employed by the Open and PGA championships.
The system, though, is just a topical rant; the major point of interest is the person who won this major.
Annika Sorenstam is once again, and for the third time, a U.S. Womens Open champion. This could prove to be the jumpstart she needs to get her game up to speed. She may well win five, six, seven more times this season; claim the money title; win Player of the Year. Or she might not. She might not do any of those things.
Either way, she just accomplished the one thing that she most wanted ' she won the major. Not a major ' THE major. The one, and just about only tournament, that had escaped her grasp over the last 10 years.
And either way, regardless of who wins the most tournaments this year, who wins the most the cash, who is voted Player of the Year ' Annika Sorenstam is still the greatest in the game today.
Related Links:
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  • Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 6:12 am

    Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:

    Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)

    What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

    Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.

    Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …

    Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.

    Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

    Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

    Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

    “I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

    Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

    “Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

    Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

    “Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

    South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

    By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

    South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

    Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

    Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

    So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

    Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

    The fourball results:

    LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

    LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

    LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

    KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

    LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

    LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

    NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


    Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

    By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

    In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

    Made Cut

    The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

    Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

    “I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

    Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

    Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

    This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

    Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

    Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

    The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

    Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

    Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

    The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

    First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

    “You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

    A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

    “The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

    For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

    Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

    “I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

    Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

    “Oh, yeah,” he told “Way by.”

    Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

    Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

    Missed Cut

    Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

    Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

    “That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

    Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

    While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.