Perfect Start to Annikas Season

By Mercer BaggsMarch 12, 2006, 5:00 pm
I received my Media Gate Pass, which gets me on the grounds and initial parking at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, thus allowing me to collect my full set of credentials for the upcoming Invitational tournament.
 
Since tournament officials mailed out the pass, I can only assume that they are going ahead as scheduled with this weeks event.
 
I guess they have to dole out $4.6 million to the 70-odd players who make the cut, and then let them bat it around to see who gets what.
 
The actual purse for the Bay Hill Invitational is $5.5 million. But we already know who is taking 900-grand off the top.
 
At least thats the way it seems if you listen to all the little voices in and around the world of golf.
 
Apparently, Tiger Woods will never lose another golf tournament. People are wondering if he can be stopped. People are declaring 2006 a revival of a season six years prior. People are not only ready to hand him the green jacket, but give him sole possession of all four major trophies.
 
People are going a bit overboard. Just a bit.
 
I consider myself a Tiger fan. Not the kind of person who paints orange and black stripes on his face and roots for him over everyone else, but the kind of person who has great admiration for the way he performs on the course and the way he handles himself off of it.
 
Still, I dont think that Tiger is invincible. At least not just yet. There are still a few crooked parts in his game that he needs to straighten out. And when he does ' and I believe whole heartedly that he will ' then Ill drink the Tiger Woods Kool-Aid.
 
Woods has played five times this year and has won on three occasions. I wasnt a math major, but I think that means that he has lost twice this season. And he will lose again.
 
As for Annika Sorenstam, Im not so certain.
 
I realize that there is no way Annika can go 20-for-20 this year. But every time I watch her play, I just cant see any possible way that she can lose.
 
Shes longer and straighter than just about every other woman and girl. Shes definitely tougher mentally than the rest of them. And if she has just an average week on the greens, shes damn-near unbeatable.
 
She just won her 67th career LPGA Tour event this past week in Mexico. And, for the fourth time in her last six victories, she did so by making bogey or worse on her final hole. That just shows that shes so good that she rarely needs late heroics to win.
 
She reminds me of Tiger Woods 2000, in that every time she competes I believe that she will win. Only this feeling is nothing new; it has been lingering for years.
 
When I was at last years Corning Classic, Sorenstam stood on the far left side of the range ' actually in the rough on the adjacent ninth hole because the practice area was so small.
 
But watching her hit alongside her peers was an eye-opening experience. The ball just made a different sound coming off the face of her driver; it traveled in an almost majestic trajectory.
 
It looked like ' and I mean this as a true compliment ' that she was a man hitting next to a bunch of girls.
 
Its almost a shame that shes not a man; then Woods would have a true rival. Or perhaps I should wish Woods to be a woman.
 
Or perhaps I should stop thinking of either scenario, because it's just too weird and I can't afford therapy.
 
But imagine if Woods and Sorenstam ' in slacks or skirts ' competed against one another, year-in and year-out, on a level playing field ' at least in terms of length.
 
It would be among the greatest rivalries in any sport of any era.
 
Of course, that will never happen. Not unless we see one hell of an episode of 'Extreme Makeover.'
 
Instead, we have to settle for Woods beating up on his PGA TOUR brethren on a fairly regular basis, and Sorenstam doing the same to the gals on the LPGA ' but on an even more frequent basis.
 
While Woods returns to action at Bay Hill following a bye week, Sorenstam will try and continue her bullying tactics at the Safeway International, a tournament that she has won three times, including two straight. She will then compete in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, a tournament that she has also won three times, including last year. After that, its likely the Atlanta Charity Championship, a tournament shes twice won, including last year.
 
She may very well win all three of those tournaments yet again.
 
But it's not like she's going to go undefeated this season. Right?
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    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

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    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.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    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.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    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.