Sorenstam Storms in First Place

By Sports NetworkNovember 22, 2003, 5:00 pm
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Annika Sorenstam fired a 5-under 67 Saturday to grab a three-stroke lead through three rounds of the ADT Championship. Sorenstam stands at 5-under-par 211.
 
Overnight co-leader Meg Mallon posted an even-par 72 and shares second place at 2-under-par 214 with Cristie Kerr, who shot a third-round 71.
 
Beth Daniel carded a 4-under 68 to move into a tie for fourth at 1-under- par 215. She is joined there by Se Ri Pak, who shot a 72. Rosie Jones and Michele Redman are one stroke further back at even par.
 
Sorenstam, who owns six LPGA Tour wins this season and 17 over the past two years, began the day two shots off the pace. She birdied the first from four feet out to get to minus-1 and her five-foot birdie putt on No. 6 gave her a share of the lead.
 
However, she quickly fell three shots back as she bogeyed the seventh at Trump International Golf Club and Laura Davies, playing behind Sorenstam, holed out for eagle at the sixth.
 
Sorenstam moved within two strokes as she came right back with a birdie at the eighth. Davies fell off the pace with a triple bogey on No. 8 and the lead fell to Jones.
 
Jones then bogeyed the 10th to drop back into a share of the lead with Sorenstam and Kerr. Sorenstam moved into the lead by herself at 4 under with a kick-in birdie on the 14th, while Jones fell off the pace with a double bogey at the 12th.
 
Sorenstam seized control with a two-putt birdie at the 15th, that moved her to minus-5. Her lead was two strokes at that point, but grew to three as Mallon bogeyed the 16th and Kerr the 17th.
 
'I'm very happy the way I played today,' said Sorenstam, the defending champion. 'I hit a lot of greens. The winds picked up a little more than I expected and then it seemed like it died, and then when I came to 16, again it picked up. So again I thought it was a tricky day.'
 
Despite what some of her foes did, Sorenstam was able to stay away from some big numbers that hurt other players.
 
'I think you've got to play smart here,' Sorenstam said. 'Play for the big areas, the wind really plays a big role here. It seems like we had cross wind on every hole. I was just trying to play smart. Sometimes I laid up where in the past I might have tried to go for it. But it's just not worth it. I was just trying to play smart.'
 
Kerr managed just one birdie, at No. 6, on her opening nine to move to 2 under. Around the turn, the 26-year-old birdied the 14th to climb to minus-3. However, she dropped a shot on 17 to fall to minus-2.
 
'I played really solidly this week,' said Kerr. 'I put a new routine into play and it's holding up under pressure, which is good. I played really very, very well coming down the stretch.'
 
Mallon fell out of the lead as she bogeyed the first and fell farther off the pace with another bogey on No. 8. Around the turn, Mallon climbed back into contention with three consecutive birdies from the 12th. She slipped back to 2-under when she bogeyed the 16th.
 
Laura Diaz, the first-round leader, stands alone in eighth place at 1-over-par 217. Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, Sophie Gustafson and Becky Morgan are two strokes further back at three-under-par 219. Grace Park follows that trio at plus-4.
 
Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb are tied at 5-over-par 221, with Lorie Kane right behind them at 6 over.
 
Davies, who shared the overnight lead, had an up-and-down day. She mixed two birdies and two bogeys over her first five holes. The Englishwoman holed out for eagle at the par-4 sixth but she stumbled around the turn with a triple bogey at No. 8 and a double bogey on the ninth.
 
On the back side, Davies birdied 10 and 15, but struggled to close out the round. She double bogeyed the 16th, quintuple bogeyed the 17th and bogeyed the last to finish with a 9-over 81. She shares 16th place at 7-over-par 223 with U.S. Women's Open runner-up Angela Stanford, Mi Hyun Kim and two-time winner this season Rachel Teske.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.