Annika Looking to Ace First Test

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2004, 5:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- The craziness of a year ago is gone, leaving Annika Sorenstam to look for challenges that have nothing to do with playing against men.
 
It didn't take her long to find one that might be even more daunting than competing on the PGA Tour.
 
Sorenstam tees off Thursday trying to make history of a different kind at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where her goal of winning the four LPGA Tour major championships will be tested in her second tournament of the season.
 
It's never been done before, though Sorenstam came close last year, when she won two majors. Even to set it as a goal would seem laughable for anyone other than the most dominant female player of her time.
 
But Sorenstam is used to doing things that aren't done much - like shooting 59 or playing on the PGA Tour.

'I know nobody else has done it so it's a very lofty goal, but, if you believe it in your mind, I believe I can do it,' Sorenstam said. 'I love challenges, and this is something that really keeps me motivated, something that makes me want to work harder.'
 
Sorenstam won't have long to find out if her latest goal is doable. If she's not taking the traditional winner's plunge into the pond by the 18th green Sunday afternoon, it will be time to look for new challenges for the year.
 
For now, though, the mission at Mission Hills Country Club is simple - win the first major championship of the year for the third time in the last four years.
 
Without the first one, there will be no Grand Slam.
 
'It would obviously be great to do it,' she said. 'I've achieved a lot in my career and I'm very proud of that, and now I'm looking ahead and looking for the next thing to do.'
 
Sorenstam couldn't be in a better position to begin her quest in a tournament she's won twice on a course with tight fairways and thick rough that is made for her long and accurate shots. She opened the season with a victory in Australia, and won her first LPGA Tour event of 2004 last week in Phoenix.
 
That was her 49th LPGA Tour win in a little more than 10 years, and she's at a rare time in a player's career where winning major championships and making history is more important than the week-to-week grind of the tour.
 
'People say you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself,' Sorenstam said. 'I don't feel it this way, it's just me knowing what I want to do. This is what I'm like. Some people want to share their goals, some don't.'
 
The goal is hardly unreachable, though the pressure will build with every victory. Sorenstam was only a few mistakes away from winning all four major titles last year, when she had a lot more on her mind than winning on the LPGA Tour.
 
Two bad swings on the back nine helped Patricia Meunier-Lebouc win the Nabisco, while a wayward shot on the final regulation hole at the U.S. Open prevented Sorenstam from winning a tournament she seemed to have under control.
 
Sorenstam won the other two majors, the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open to claim a career Grand Slam.
 
'She's incredible. She doesn't make many mistakes out there,' said Lorena Ochoa, who tied for third last year. 'I admire her very much. The only thing we can do, players right now, is learn from her, respect her and try to follow what she's doing.'
 
Sorenstam, whose inability to consistently win majors early in her career was the only criticism against her, said her experience playing against the men at Colonial should only help her in the final holes of major championships.
 
She can't imagine any more pressure than she felt in May when she teed it up on the first hole at Colonial.
 
'Playing with the guys obviously helps, it's made me tougher,' Sorenstam said. 'When you play under pressure like the Colonial, being under the microscope, it doesn't get any harder than that. I feel more comfortable being there and performing under pressure.'
 
That can't be good news to the rest of the field in the desert - a group that includes 14-year-old Michelle Wie.
 
Despite her age, Wie is now more than a novelty on the women's tour. She got in the final group on Sunday last year after a third round 66, only to fade to ninth place.
 
Still, that wasn't bad for a teen who seemed just as concerned about getting her braces off than winning a golf tournament. Wie is now in high school, and will be playing in her second LPGA tournament of the year after a top 20 finish last week in Phoenix.
 
'Last year was really fun and special to me, but my goal this year is to play better and hopefully jump in the lake,' Wie said.
 
One thing for sure is there will be a new champion this week. Meunier-Lebouc had a baby in February and is not ready to play competitive golf again just yet.
 
Meunier-Lebouc was at the course Wednesday to accept a painting in recognition of her win. Her husband stood by proudly holding their baby while she talked to the media.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - Kraft Nabisco Championship

  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco Championship

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    Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

    While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

    7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

    Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.


    8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

    There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.


    8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

    Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.


    12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

    Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.


    12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

    There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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    Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

    By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

    We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

    Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

    I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

    That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

    In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

    My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

    Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

    It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

    So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

    We hope it isn’t his back.

    Or his neck.

    Or his knees.

    Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

    Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

    Competitively, it’s all that matters.

    Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

    We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

    Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

    The game soars to yet another level with that.

    A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

    So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

    The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

    They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

    They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

    Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

    And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

    The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

    Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

    For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

    There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

    Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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    Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

    By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

    "Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

    Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

    Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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    Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

    Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

    A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

    The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

    "It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

    The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

    Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

    Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.