Annika Sorenstam Can Stretch Her Limits
A public relations gimmick?
Ann Meyers never saw herself that way.
``I wouldn't have played if I didn't think I could make it,'' Meyers said, reflecting on her historic NBA tryout in 1979 with the Indiana Pacers. ``That's how much I believed in myself. It wasn't to prove a point.''
Meyers never played in the NBA. She didn't make it past a three-day camp for rookies. She still thinks former Pacers coach Slick Leonard had made up his mind about her before she even stepped onto the court.
That's why Meyers doesn't want Annika Sorenstam to play a PGA Tour event.
She wants her to play several.
``People are going to judge her on one week? I think it would be interesting to see what she could do over an entire season,'' Meyers said.
That's getting ahead of the game.
Sorenstam, who wins more often than Tiger Woods, is still deciding whether to accept any of the seven offers from PGA Tour events that poured in after the 32-year-old Swede said she would take a sponsor's exemption ``in a heartbeat.''
``I would love to play,'' she said. ``I have nothing to lose. It's a great challenge.''
There are a few catches.
Sorenstam would only consider tournaments where she has a fighting chance, on courses that put a premium on accuracy over power. She hits the ball about 265 yards, which would have ranked her 196th on the PGA Tour last year.
It can't conflict with any weeks where she is defending champion ' 11 ' or the major championships or Solheim Cup. There goes four months out of the schedule.
``You get through that and there is not a lot to choose from,'' said Mark Steinberg, her agent at IMG.
The real problem might be the public relations battle.
``The most difficult thing wasn't playing the game,'' Meyers said. ``It was all the negativity, so many people who were against it.''
One of the more valid arguments is that if Sorenstam really wants to measure herself against the men, why not Monday qualify? That's what 13-year-old Michelle Wie did in Honolulu, shooting a 73 to fall six shots short of getting into the Sony Open.
One of the weaker arguments is that Sorenstam would take a spot away from someone else more deserving.
Sponsor exemptions were designed for tournaments to fill out the field or generate interest for their community.
Who brings more interest ' Mike Springer or Annika Sorenstam?
``I have no problem with a tournament giving her an exemption,'' David Duval said. ``They have no obligation to give those to anyone except the people they see fit.''
Another argument: If Sorenstam can play on the PGA Tour, why can't men play on the LPGA Tour?
The PGA Tour is not for men. It's for the best players, who happen to be men.
``Annika is not going to render the PGA Tour obsolete,'' LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw said. ``There is the potential that men could do that to the LPGA. She would be at a disadvantage against the men, yet she still wants to do it. The only reason men would want to do it (play the LPGA) is to take advantage of a physiological differential.''
Duval has competed against Sorenstam twice in the last two years, the ``Battle at Bighorn'' two years ago and an 18-hole exhibition in Mexico last month.
``I wish I could hit the ball that straight,'' Duval said. ``It's impressive.''
What kind of scores Sorenstam might post is anyone's guess.
Power puts her at an extreme disadvantage, not only off the tee but coming into the green. She likely would be hitting 5-iron and 7-wood when others have a 7-iron or an 8-iron in their hands.
Pins are tucked. Greens are firmer. Rough is thicker.
``Could she contend? No, absolutely not,'' Ian Leggatt of Canada told The Globe and Mail. ``She doesn't have the power to play, you know? Power is what it is out here.''
Laura Davies, the biggest hitter in women's golf, believes Sorenstam would ``comfortably'' make the cut and would not be satisfied unless she had a chance to win.
But consider the source.
Davies played in something called the ``Super Tour'' in 1998, which was playing on four courses in four Asian cities. Vijay Singh won at 19-under 269. Davies was 20 over par, a mere 39 strokes out of the lead.
Meyers faced the same question nearly 25 years ago. Whether it's basketball or golf, it all boils down to the same pursuit.
``Why not test your abilities?'' Meyers said. ``Any athlete, any human ... you always want to see what you can do against the best. She's just challenging herself. She wants to know what she's capable of doing.''
It wouldn't hurt to find out.
Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.
Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.
Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.
“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”
No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.
On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.
“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.
“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”
A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.
“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”
Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship
It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)
How to watch:
Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Purse: $6 million
Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)
Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship
• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open
• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts
• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)
• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)
• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)
Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17
Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.
Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.
Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.
"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."
But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.
After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.
"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."
McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status
For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.
The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.
McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.
"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."
By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.
But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.
Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.