Sorenstam Wins Playoff in a Rout

By Sports NetworkJuly 3, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Annika Sorenstam carded a 1-under-par 70 in Monday's playoff to knock off Pat Hurst and claim her third U.S. Women's Open title and 10th major championship crown.
'It's awesome. What a great week, what a great finish,' Sorenstam exclaimed. 'I want to congratulate Pat on great competition and good playing. Wow, this is fantastic.'
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam won her third U.S. Women's Open title and 10th major championship overall.
Sorenstam, who previously won this title in 1995 and 1996, moved to 15-5 in her career in playoffs, including 3-0 over Hurst. For Sorenstam, the 10 years between wins at the U.S. Women's Open is the second-longest stretch in Open history.
Meg Mallon went 13 years between her wins in 1991 and 2004, where she beat Sorenstam by two shots with a Sunday 65.
'When I came out early and won my first tournament, the U.S. Open, then I won back-to-back and I thought wow I can do this. Now it's been 10 years. It's been a long road and on the way I've learned a lot,' said Sorenstam, who earned $560,000 for the win. 'This week obviously means a lot to me. The way I came back, with my season being so up-and-down, to win the Open is pretty ironic.'
Hurst three-putted for bogey on the first at Newport Country Club and three-putted for double bogey on the sixth en route to a 4-over 75.
This was the third women's major this season to end in a playoff. Karrie Webb downed Lorena Ochoa on the first extra hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Se Ri Pak bested Webb at the LPGA Championship, also on the first hole.
It also marked the 10th playoff in U.S. Women's Open history, and the first since Hilary Lunke was victorious in 2003.
At the start of the week, many thought a Monday finish would be needed after heavy fog never lifted off the course on Thursday and not one shot was struck all day.
However, the players managed to complete both the third and fourth rounds on Sunday to set up the 18-hole Monday playoff.
Sorenstam took control of the playoff quickly with a 6-foot birdie putt on the first. Hurst's approach shot at the first spun hard back off the front edge. She three-putted from the fringe for bogey to quickly fall two back.
The 35-year-old Sorenstam pushed her lead to three strokes with a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-4 third. The duo matched pars on the next two holes.
Hurst, the 1998 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner, drove her tee shot under the lip of a fairway bunker at the par-4 sixth. She pitched out with a sand wedge, but pulled the shot into the left rough.
The 37-year-old Hurst knocked her third shot to 25 feet. She rolled her par putt within 3 feet, but lipped out that short putt. The double bogey dropped Hurst four behind Sorenstam.
The women's world No. 1 had trouble of her own on the sixth. Sorenstam came up short and right of the green in a bunker. She blasted on, but two-putted for bogey from over 50 feet out to slide to minus-1.
Hurst missed the green left at the ninth and was unable to save par from there. The bogey dropped her to plus-4, five back of Sorenstam.
Sorenstam extended that lead to six strokes with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 12th. She gave that stroke right back with a bogey on 13.
However, Hurst could not take advantage. She missed birdie putts from inside 16 feet on 11 and 12, then got up and down for par on 13.
The duo matched pars over the next four holes as Sorenstam cruised down the stretch hitting fairways and greens. Sorenstam hit the final eight fairways and two-putted for par on the last five holes.
'I've been trying so hard to treat this as any other day. I think I've been talking to myself so many times, that if somebody saw me they'd think I was weird,' Sorenstam joked. 'But I kept telling myself to play your game, it's good enough, focus on what you have to do, don't think too much about the surroundings. This is what you want, here's a chance. I just kept telling myself that over and over.'
Hurst, who never got as hot with her putter as she has been in the past, drained a long birdie putt on the last for her only birdie of the day.
'I kept pushing and didn't make any putts out there and that was probably what kept me back,' admitted Hurst, who dropped to 0-4 in her career in playoffs. 'If I could have made a couple of putts out there today, maybe it would have been a little closer and would have put a little pressure on her.
'She played great and was steady. She was down the middle and on the greens and made some putts here and there. Emotionally, I am spent.'
Michelle Wie had a share of the lead Sunday until a bogey at the 13th. She finished with a 2-over 73 and a share of third place with Pak (69) and Stacy Prammanasudh (72) at 2-over-par 286.
Two-time U.S. Women's Open winner Juli Inkster also had a piece of the lead on Sunday, but three bogeys over her final 10 holes dropped her to sixth place. She carded a 2-over 73 in the final round and ended at plus-three.
Brittany Lincicome, who shared the lead entering the final round with Wie and Sorenstam, struggled to a 7-over 78 in the final round and finished alone in seventh at plus-seven. Rachel Hetherington (73) and Shi Hyun Ahn (76) tied for eighth place at 8-over-par 292.
Amateurs Amanda Blumenherst (73) and Jane Park (76) tied for 10th place with Jee Young Lee (77), Patricia Meunier-Lebouc (75), Sophie Gustafson (78) and Young Kim (74). That group came in at 9-over-par 293.
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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.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.