Another Wonderful Year For Annika and LPGA

By Sports NetworkDecember 7, 2004, 5:00 pm
One year ago, the story of the golf world was a women playing with men. It happened with Annika Sorenstam on the PGA Tour, Michelle Wie on the Nationwide and Canadian Tours and Se Ri Pak in Asia. Heck, even Jan Stephenson competed on the Champions Tour.
In 2004, only Wie played in a high-profile event, the Sony Open in Hawaii on the PGA Tour. The story of this year's campaign was stellar golf, an outstanding national championship and one lady who just gets better and better.
There are few things you can rely on in your life. The sun will rise in the morning, the Los Angeles Clippers will stink every year and Annika Sorenstam will be the Player of the Year in women's golf.
Sorenstam won eight titles in 2004, including another major at the LPGA Championship. She picked up two more victories internationally and tallied four runner-up finishes. The Swede was in the top-10 in 16 of her 18 starts this season. The other two finishes - ties for 13th at the Nabisco Championship and Women's British Open.
Sorenstam pocketed $2,544,707 for another money title, her seventh. In fact, she took home over $1 million more than second place finisher Grace Park. Sorenstam matched her own LPGA record scoring average of 68.70, which she originally set in 2002, the same year she won 11 times and netted 20 top-10s in 23 starts.
The interesting thing about the comparison about the 2002 and 2004 campaigns is the number of starts. Twenty-three versus 18. Sorenstam has never been shy about being interested in things outside the golf world, namely having a family. At 34, the clock might be ticking so get your fill of Annika while you can.
That being said, can Sorenstam walk away from this? She is a fearless competitor who thrives on tournament action. Sorenstam is now 32 wins behind Kathy Whitworth for first all-time. Sounds like a lot, but think about this. She has won 38 times since 2000 and doesn't seem to be falling off the pace. Figure sometime around mid-2008 for Annika to be the career wins leader in LPGA Tour history.
Presumably she will stick around to try and break that although if 2004 taught her anything, it's that she can play a relatively limited schedule and still be dominant. Her winning percentage of 44% on tour is staggering and tops in golf. Vijay Singh may have won nine times, but it took him 29 starts to do it for a pedestrian 31% winning percentage.
Sorenstam is still the most dominant player in the sport. She has the aura about her that Woods had in 2000. When she is in a tournament, every other player teeing it up knows Annika is the player to beat. She's in the best shape on tour and works hard on her game. Sorenstam has the off-season to relax and playing a lighter schedule means she has more time to charge her batteries.
In 2003, the obvious choice for Rookie of the Year was Lorena Ochoa. She mowed through the PAC-10 at the University of Arizona then came on tour and moved to the top of the class.
This year was a little different. No player stuck out, but the nod here goes to Shi Hyun Ahn, a 20-year-old Korean, who actually won an event in 2003, the CJ Nine Bridges. That win got her an LPGA Tour card and she made the most of it.
Ahn opened with back-to-back ties for fifth place to start the season, then finished alone in second behind Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship. Ahn missed two cuts in a row from the Women's British Open, but collected three consecutive top-11 finishes, including another runner-up, this time at the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic.
Ahn finished 16th on the final money list, which was good enough to outlast Aree Song for Rookie of the Year honors.
Se Ri Pak for the last three seasons has been the toughest threat for Annika Sorenstam's stranglehold atop women's golf. That abruptly screeched to a halt in 2004.
From 2001-2003, Pak collected 13 wins and finished second on the money list all three years, amassing close to $5 million in earnings.
This year was a disaster in comparison.
Pak won once, the Michelob Ultra Open, finished in the top-10 five times and missed three cuts. She slipped to 11th on the 2004 money list and stopped playing competitively.
The common theory is that Pak is wiped out and needs time to rest. She will have plenty of time for that now, but Pak better worry about keeping her ball on the fairway (156th in driving accuracy), or she will continue to slide down the money list.
With due respect to the LPGA Takefuji Classic and its seven-hole playoff that became a marathon due more to mediocre golf between Cristie Kerr and Seol An Jeon, the finish at the U.S. Women's Open was a spectacle in itself.
Jenny Rosales, a rail-thin, chain-smoking 20-something, had a three-shot lead heading into the final round. This would have been her first major championship and vaulted her into a top tier golfer.
Meg Mallon, who was born a few hours away from Orchards Golf Club, is in her mid-40s, does not have the traditional athlete's physique and seemed to heading into the twilight of her career.
Something strange happened on that Sunday afternoon in Massachusetts.
Mallon started holing every putt she looked at. She finished the round with 10 one-putts, Mallon made a pair of 20-foot birdie putts in the final round. She rolled in tap-ins and even stroked home a par-saver from the fringe at 17.
Mallon won the following week and picked up win No. 3 of the season a few weeks later. Had it not been for Sorenstam, Mallon would certainly be the Player of the Year, but winning the tournament of the year is a good consolation.
Cristie Kerr won three titles and lost in a playoff in the season-ending event, the ADT Championship. Kerr took fifth on the money list and finally turned into the elite player many thought she should have been before 2004.
Grace Park came in second on the money list and earned her first major at the Nabisco Championship. Despite the strong season, developing a reputation for a bad closer with seven second-places, but 12 top-fives is too impressive to overlook.
Christina Kim is one of the most exciting players in the world. Galleries love her go-for-broke attitude and she responded with a phenomenal run in the early fall. She took second at the State Farm Classic and a few weeks later, recorded her first win on tour at the Longs Drugs Challenge.
Juli Inkster failed to win a tournament for the first time since 1996. She tallied seven top-10s, but fell off her perch as top American woman, yielding to both Mallon and Kerr.
Candie Kung won three times in 2003. She won zero times in 2004. Kung finished sixth on the LPGA Tour money list in 2003. She finished 17th in 2004. Kung was third in birdies in 2003 with 357. She finished fourth with 372 in 2004. All was not lost.
Rosales won for the first time on tour at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, then looked destined to win the U.S. Women's Open. She imploded on Sunday and Mallon won the title. Rosales only posted two top-10s the rest of the way.
Related Links:
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    Teenager Im wins season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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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.