WE'VE MISSED YOU: Annika Sorenstam held off a slew of pursuers and posted a gritty 3-under 69 in the final round to win the LPGA Tour's season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay. The victory marked the 70th of her career, and more importantly, her first win in 17 injury-prone months.
What a way for the LPGA to start the season, with Annika back in the winner's circle. Not sure which was a more dramatic turn of events from last year - Lorena Ochoa's meteoric rise to the top or Annika's almost unfathomable fall from her perch atop the women's game. But just one event into 2008, Sorenstam served notice to Ochoa and golf fans everywhere that she is still a driving force in the game. Game on!
RIVIERA RE-DO: Phil Mickelson withstood a strong challenge from Jeff Quinney in Sunday's final round to hang on and win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. With his 33rd PGA TOUR victory, Lefty moved into the 13th spot on the TOUR's all-time career win list.
Where do we begin? The fact that Phil lost in a playoff here at Riviera last year and was able to come back and make amends? The fact that just last week he took an 11 on the 14th on Friday at Pebble Beach which caused him to miss the cut? Or the fact that in three straight weeks his line reads like this - playoff runner-up at FBR; MC at Pebble; first-ever win at famed Riviera? 'What Will Phil Do Next?' is still the greatest television commercial concept ever.
MATCH PLAY MATCH UPS: The WGC-Match Play Championship field and first-round pairings were officially announced Sunday evening. This is the 10th year of the tournament and Tiger Woods goes in as the event's overall No. 1 seed. Mickelson is the second seed, Steve Stricker the third and Ernie Els the No. 4.
A quick glance at the bracket offers up quite a few intriguing first round match-ups: the first and foremost involving Tiger and J.B. Holmes, who is coming off a big win in a playoff over world No. 2 Mickelson in Scottsdale; Jim Furyk and Ryder Cup match play extraordinaire Colin Montgomerie; Luke Donald and Nick Dougherty - two of England's brightest young stars; 2006 Match Play champ Geoff Ogilvy and 2005 Match Play champ David Toms; and finally, Sweden's Niclas Fasth up against Australia's Richard Sterne. OK, just kidding about the last one. No offense Niclas and Richard.
NEW SENIOR KING?: Scott Hoch drained a birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to get himself into a four-man playoff at Champions Tour's The ACE Group Classic . He then drained another birdie putt on the first playoff hole to win for the second straight week.
As stated last week right here in Backspin, the Champions Tour is flat out in the business of exciting finishes. A four-man playoff? Why not? Truth is, it would have been a five-man playoff if not for three-time major champion Nick Price just missing a birdie putt on 18 that would have gotten him into the mix. As for Hoch, a few more back-to-back wins like this will forever make people forgot that awful nickname he earned from the 1989 Masters. No, no it won't.
HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD: Felipe Aguilar of Chile won the European Tour's Indonesian Open - his first career win - with a birdie on the 72nd hole. Finishing runner-up was India's Jeev Milka Singh, who had a one-stroke lead heading to the 18th before a bogey handed to trophy over to Aguilar.
This was the second straight week that a virtual unknown has won on the European Tour, following S.S.P. Chowrasia's breakthrough victory last week in India. These two winners are coming off the heels of back-to-back weeks that the Euro Tour saw Adam Scott win in Qatar and world No. 1 Tiger Woods crowned champion in Dubai. Some tournament organizers just don't have the luck or timing that other organizers do.
RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY...: Darron Stiles birdied the final hole to win by a stroke at the rain-soaked New Zealand PGA. The American tallied a 36-hole score of 10 under as inclement weather wiped out both the second and third rounds of play. Due to this fact organizers said that the victory would not be recognized as an official tour win, although Stiles did collect first-place prize money.
Why it was determined that Darron Stiles’ triumph Sunday was not an official win seems somewhat silly. Last we checked, Stiles’ doesn’t control the weather, and on top of that, he had to travel halfway around the world to play in the event. But the American didn’t let that rain on his parade, stating, "It may have been just the second round but today felt every bit as pressure packed as in a normal fourth round Sunday."
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Mickelson again made headlines by his mode of transportation to Riviera Country Club in L.A., choosing to fly instead of drive from his home in Rancho Santa Fe; John Daly, in on yet another sponsor's exemption, actually played all four rounds of a tournament for the first time in his last seven starts.
Phil's flights of fancy were perhaps unorthodox, but who knows, maybe he's just trying to rack up on the frequent flyer miles so he can get a few extra free flights to scout out Augusta in the upcoming months; Big John may have made it all four rounds, but that didn't turn out to be a good thing, as he bogeyed six of his first nine holes on Sunday en route to a 5-over-par 76 and a tie for second to last place.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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