Annika a Perfect 10 in Stellar Season

By Sports NetworkDecember 14, 2005, 5:00 pm
Even as young up-and-comers commanded headlines during the LPGA Tour's 2005 season -- and they did, almost weekly -- a steely veteran was still able to defend her turf as the best women's golfer in the world.
Resilience to challenge may be Annika Sorenstam's most invaluable quality, the one that has enabled her to be so good for so long. And for that alone she could be considered one of the most dominant athletes in the world.
But for us, it's just one of many reasons we consider her the best.
That Sorenstam won 10 times on the LPGA Tour in 2005 is not surprising. In fact, nothing she accomplished during the season -- not winning her sixth Vare Trophy for scoring average, nor earning better than $2 million for the fifth straight year while no one else has even done it once -- could be considered so.
But it's exactly that almost robotic consistency which elevates Sorenstam to a level of excellence enjoyed by similarly dominant athletes like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam's win at the season-ending ADT Championship was her 10th triumph of the year.
She deserves to be mentioned in the same breath, and not just at the end of the exhale. So let's look at her year.
Sorenstam shot under par in 52 of her 70 rounds in 2005, and her 10 victories came in just 20 starts. She finished in the top 10 in 15 of those tournaments.
Her first three wins came in three straight tournaments in March -- the MasterCard Classic, the Safeway International and the first LPGA major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which she won by eight shots.
Sorenstam then won the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship and the ShopRite LPGA Classic by a combined 14 shots, before beating teenager Michelle Wie by three strokes in the year's second major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
Three months later, in September, Sorenstam edged rookie Paula Creamer by a shot in the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic for her seventh title of the year. Her eighth win also came against Creamer, an eight-stroke victory in the Samsung World Championship.
Sorenstam then finished off her year with two victories in November, at the Mizuno Classic and the season-ending ADT Championship.
The win at the ADT Championship -- her 66th title in 12 full seasons on the LPGA Tour -- did not come without controversy. Sorenstam was involved in a bit of a row with Creamer over a drop at the 18th hole during the first round; her fierce defense that she should be allowed a drop, despite Creamer's insistence that she should re-tee, exemplified not only her unparalleled knowledge of the rule book, but also an unwillingness to cede even a sliver of the high ground she has earned as the best women's golfer in the world.
Some might call such displays arrogance -- and some of us have -- but to watch it unfold live was to watch an athlete at the peak of her career, with 65 titles in her pocket, battling tooth-and-nail for No. 66.
Sorenstam's dominance in 2005 extended somewhat to the Solheim Cup -- she lost just once, in the Saturday morning foursomes matches -- but it didn't keep the United States from improving to 5-0 on home soil with a 15 1/2 - 12 1/2 victory at Crooked Stick.
The Solheim Cup is a chalk pick for Tournament of the Year, but a good one nonetheless. This year's edition included good storylines.
United States captain Nancy Lopez took her duties seriously, orchestrating a campaign of bonding between the American women, some of whom were part of a bad loss to the Europeans in 2003. She organized practice rounds and several dinners, and gathered the 12 women together for wine and movies.
It paid dividends.
Paula Creamer
Paula Creamer helped lead a new wave of American women to a Solheim Cup victory.
The patriotism which is always a feature of the fashion -- temporary tattoos on cheeks, appropriately-colored hair accoutrements -- spilled over into a nationalistic fervor at this year's Solheim Cup, displayed by players and fans alike and fueled by a tangible feeling of togetherness among the teammates.
Christina Kim emerged as a loud, feisty competitor. Creamer boldly guaranteed victory, and then went 3-1-1 in her Solheim Cup debut. Both players, along with fellow first-timer Natalie Gulbis, helped the U.S. Solheim Cup rookies go 8-3-2.
It was, as Lopez offered afterwards, like a dream.
'They were ready,' she said. 'The players played their hearts out.'
When Meg Mallon rolled in a six-foot par save at the 16th on Sunday, she halved the hole with Karen Stupples and went 2-up with two to play. That assured the American side a half point, which was enough to give them the 14 1/2 points needed to win the Solheim Cup.
Mallon became the all-time leading point winner in American Solheim Cup history with her defeat of Stupples. But more than that, her putt provided a sigh of relief for the Americans, who needed just a half point to win, but were behind in most of the final matches.
'What a great feeling,' said Mallon, who was in the opposite spot in 1992 when Europe clinched the Solheim Cup in her singles match. 'I'm so proud of [my teammates]. We had to play exceptional to beat them. What a match.'
And what a rookie year for Mallon's teammate, the 19-year-old Creamer.
Creamer's list of accomplishments in 2005 is impressive: a two-time winner and the youngest champion on the LPGA Tour in 52 years; second to Sorenstam on the money list with more than $1.5 million; 11 top-10 finishes in 25 starts; first in putting average; and, maybe most importantly, the most-successful of the LPGA's young up-and-comers.
Michelle Wie may have garnered headlines for playing with the guys while being too young to drive a car, among other things, but she was one of two players who finished second, by eight strokes, to Creamer at the Evian Masters.
That win alone would make Creamer a good choice for Rookie of the Year.
Lost in the shuffle somewhat were the good seasons put together by some other LPGA pros.
Cristie Kerr finished third on the money list with better than $1.35 million and was the only player besides Sorenstam and Creamer to win twice (at the Michelob Ultra Open and the Wendy's Championship).
Jeong Jang played alongside Sorenstam in the final round of the Women's British Open and finished off a wire-to-wire victory for her first career title. She put together 15 top-10 finishes in 27 starts and finished fifth on the money list.
Natalie Gulbis had her best year as a pro -- she placed sixth on the money list with more than $1 million and had her reality show debut on the Golf Channel -- but is still seeking that elusive first win.
Sherri Steinhauer, a 20-year pro, managed just one top-10 finish in her 25 starts during the 2005 season. She finishes in the top 20 in just one major statistical category.

Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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    Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

    Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

    Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

    The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

    In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

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    Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator

    By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

    Alligator sightings are pretty common on Southern golf courses - see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

    Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)

    But here's one that deserves distinction.

    Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.