Annika Captures LPGA Championship

By Sports NetworkJune 13, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 McDonaldWILMINGTON, Del. -- Annika Sorenstam defended her crown at the year's second major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, on Sunday despite just her second round over par all year. Sorenstam closed with a 1-over 72 to end the championship at 13-under-par 271.
Sorenstam becomes the fourth golfer to repeat as champion here. Juli Inkster did so in 1999-2000, Patty Sheehan turned the trick in 1983-1984, as did Mickey Wright in 1960-1961.
'This one feels really special. I played really well early this morning,' said Sorenstam, who has now won 12 of her last 13 events when holding the 36-hole lead, including the last eight in a row. 'For some reason it started to slip away and I felt calm, but things just stopped going my way. Obviously, I'm very glad I turned it around and it feels wonderful now.'
Sorenstam, who is also the reigning Women's British Open champion, has a chance to become the first golfer, male or female, to defend two separate major championship titles in the same season.
She finished three strokes clear of tour rookie Shi Hyun Ahn. Ahn closed with a 5-under 66 to end the tournament at 10-under-par 274.
Grace Park, who won the season's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and had lost to Sorenstam in a playoff here last year, closed with a 3-under 68 to finish at 8-under-par 276. Gloria Park and Angela Stanford, who will defend her title at the ShopRite LPGA Classic next week, ended two strokes further back at minus-6.
The field played the final 36 holes on Sunday after Friday's action was completely washed out by rain.
Sorenstam, who set a new 54-hole scoring record of 14-under-par 199, entered the final round with a commanding six-stroke lead. The Swede birdied the first hole at DuPont Country Club to extend her lead.
From there, Sorenstam looked like she might let things get away from her. She bogeyed the second and dropped another stroke at the fifth to slip to minus-13.
The 33-year-old came back with a birdie at the eighth. However, Sorenstam missed the green at the par-5 ninth with her third shot. She left her first chip short, then finally knocked her fifth shot onto the putting surface. She two-putted for a double bogey to make the turn at 12 under.
Sorenstam's slide continued as she bogeyed the 10th and 11th to fall to minus-10, where her lead was three.
'I didn't do that on purpose, but it really got exciting,' said Sorenstam, who earned $240,000 for the win. 'I told my caddie I felt calm. I felt real good, but it just didn't happen. I either selected the wrong club or I made a poor putt or missed a tee shot. It was just something on every hole.'
After Ahn got within two shots at minus-8, Sorenstam returned to form. She picked up birdies at the 12th and 14th to get back to 12 under, three shots clear of Ahn.
Sorenstam was not done either. She pulled her drive left at the par-5 16th and punched her second shot into the adjoining 11th fairway. From just under 100 yards, Sorenstam dropped her sand-wedge on the green and spun the ball within 3 feet of the cup.
She sank that birdie try and came right back with an 8-foot birdie putt at the very next hole. Sorenstam knocked her second shot into a greenside bunker at the last.
Sorenstam blasted out, but missed her par saving putt. She tapped in for bogey to close just her first over par final round to win a major championship in her career. The win was No. 52 and major title No. 7 in Sorenstam's Hall of Fame career.
'My goal was the grand slam, I didn't do that, but at least I got the second one,' Sorenstam said. 'I thought I played some really good golf this week and I was patient. It makes me feel good that I was able to turn it around when things really didn't go my way.'
Ahn, who won the CJ Nine Bridges Classic last fall, birdied the third to get to 6 under. She picked up her fourth birdie in four tries on the par-5 ninth before birdieing the par-5 11th.
The Korean kept the pressure on Sorenstam with back-to-back birdies from the par-4 15th to get to 10 under. She could only par the final two holes to finish second in just her second major championship event.
'I've never played 36 holes before, so I was kind of worried that,' said Ahn through an interpreter. 'You know it's going to be hard, boring and tiring, but as I was playing, I felt good and my shots were good. So I had a good time and enjoyed the game. My main determination was to catch Annika.'
Inkster, who played with Sorenstam for the final two rounds, stumbled to a 2-over 73 in the final round to end at 5-under-par 279. She was joined there by Christina Kim, who closed with a 72 for her best finish in a major.
Lorena Ochoa, the 2003 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year, faltered to a 4-over 75 to end at 4-under-par 280. She was joined there by Wendy Doolan and Soo-Yun Kang. Carin Koch and Reilley Rankin, a rookie, ended one stoke further back at minus-3.
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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."