Nordqvist wins more fans in 'hometown' event

By Randall MellMarch 20, 2017, 3:19 am

PHOENIX – Almost 9,000 miles from the Swedish city where she grew up, Anna Nordqvist couldn’t have felt more at home.

The former Arizona State Sun Devil won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in the shadow of the campus where she built so many college memories.

“It feels very, very special,” Nordqvist said. “I could only have dreamed of winning on what feels like home soil.”

In Sunday’s 96-degree heat, Nordqvist thrived. She was the hottest player in the Phoenix desert all week.

Closing with a 4-under-par 68, Nordqvist won comfortably, even with a bogey at the last. At 25 under overall, she finished two shots ahead of Stacy Lewis (68), Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and In Gee Chun (66).

Nordqvist, 29, wasn’t just a favorite of all the locals who remembered her here. She keeps discovering how many fans around the world she won last summer with the gracious way she handled losing the U.S. Women’s Open. In fact, she might have won as many fans in that loss at CordeValle as she did in any of her previous six LPGA victories before Sunday’s.

“The amount of support, the fans who reached out to me after that, I’m very touched,” Nordqvist said. “People almost supported me more. The only thing I didn’t get that week was a trophy.”

Nordqvist lost the U.S. Women’s Open to Brittany Lang after a high-definition close up of a television replay determined she grazed a few grains of sand taking back her 5-iron in a fairway bunker on the second playoff hole.

The jarring nature of that two-shot penalty, assessed a hole later, affected a lot of fans.

“I seemed to have a lot bigger following and social media, coming out to tournaments,” Nordqvist said. “I did my best that day. I touched the sun and life goes on. Here I am with my next trophy. I'm just trying to do my best. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

Nordqvist set up Sunday’s victory with a tournament record 11-under-par 61 on Saturday. Her 25 under total was just two shots off the LPGA’s 72-hole record.

Lewis, Chun and So Yeon Ryu all made charges, with world No. 2 Jutanugarn charging late on the back nine.

“I'm proud of the way I played and proud obviously for sticking to my game plan,” Nordqvist said.

Nordqvist didn’t have to look far for comfort. She was followed all week by a half dozen Scandinavians, one wearing a Viking helmet.

Terje Erga, a Norwegian, wore a helmet with a pair of horns protruding from it. He was hosting a group of fellow Norwegians and a Swedish pro, Marcus Ferrell, whom Nordqvist grew up with.

“Marcus was, actually, one of my best friends from growing up playing golf,” Nordqvist said. “We grew up at the same golf course. It just means a lot, even though I'm far away, to have that hometown support.”

Nordqvist spent the week staying with a family she got to know while playing at Arizona State. She stayed with David and Alison Highmark.

“David’s like my American dad,” Nordqvist said. “He really took me under my wing when I moved here from Sweden. I don’t know what I would have done without him. From getting my tour card to helping me buy a condo, he’s been there for me.”

A lot of fans were there Sunday for the Swedish star.

“This truly feels like home,” she said.

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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.