Big Test for Beatable Sorenstam

By Associated PressJune 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
USGAAnnika Sorenstam has gone from the slam to the slump.
She was on the fast track to the Grand Slam last year after winning the first two majors by a combined 11 shots, leading over the final 54 holes in each of them. Her victims were a 45-year-old easing into retirement (Rosie Jones) and a 15-year-old who still had two years left in high school (Michelle Wie).
The Swede looked unstoppable until running into her toughest opponent: The U.S. Women's Open.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has only one victory this season -- her first start of the year.
One year later, the showcase event in women's golf stands in the way of a different goal for Sorenstam, who is trying to diffuse talk about her being in a slump.
''I don't use that word myself,'' Sorenstam said. ''I'm one of the few players that won this year, so in a way, I take it as a compliment because I have set the standard very high. It might not sound like the greatest season so far, but I have not played half of the tournaments yet. Let's just see how the season turns out.''
The U.S. Women's Open begins Thursday at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, a founding member of the USGA that held the first two majors in this country -- the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open, one day apart in 1895 -- and did not host another big event until Tiger Woods won his second U.S. Amateur in 1995.
It is the main event on the LPGA Tour, offering $560,000 to the winner.
''There's just something different about the U.S. Open that makes it that much more important to just about anyone that plays it,'' two-time Open champion Karrie Webb said. ''It's going to be a really tough challenge. I'm preparing now for that to be a really long, tiring week, and telling myself now to be patient.''
Sorenstam has no choice but to preach patience, hopeful her game will turn around.
She won her 2006 debut on the LPGA Tour at a 54-hole event in Mexico, but that remains her only victory this year. She is No. 6 on the money list, but everyone is used to seeing her name at the top. And while Sorenstam has finished in the top 10 at both majors, she was never seriously a factor in either.
She is not hitting as many fairways. She is not making enough putts. She can't seem to put three or four good rounds together.
''It just goes a little bit up and down at the moment,'' she said. ''I just keep on going because I know what I'm capable of. I've hit a little plateau at the moment, and I'm trying to find a way to get to the next step and keep on cruising, the way I did a few years ago.''
She comes into the U.S. Women's Open having taken two weeks off to clear her mind. She is still atop the women's world ranking by a large margin, and no one doubts her skill.
But history is not on her side at this championship -- not any more.
Ten years ago, Sorenstam was so dominant in the U.S. Women's Open that she missed only five fairways all week at Pine Needles and won by six shots, setting a tournament record at 272. It was her second straight Open title, and many more were sure to follow.
Now, that's about the only major she can't seem to win.
Going for the third leg of the Grand Slam last year at Cherry Hills, she let nerves get the best of her in the first round, then fell apart on the weekend with a four-putt double bogey on Saturday and a 77 on Sunday.
She needed a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to win at Pumpkin Ridge in 2003 and had only a 4-wood left to the green. But she hit it behind a portable toilet, hit wedge into the bunker and made bogey to finish one shot out of the playoff. The year before, at Prairie Dunes, she led by two shots going into the final round and lost to Juli Inkster.
''It's really the No. 1 major ... and the U.S. Open always means a lot to me,'' Sorenstam said. ''I haven't won it in a while, and I've had the chance a few times. I've been very, very close, so I'm looking forward to it. Like I said, I'm just wanting my game to turn around, and it will be a lot more fun.''
The U.S. Women's Open is not meant to be fun. It was a matter of survival last year at Cherry Hills, a test so demanding that only one player broke par in the final round and seven players didn't break 80. Birdie Kim won by holing a 30-yard bunker shot on the last hole to finish at 3-over 287.
Newport figures to be just as stern. It is a links-style course off Newport Harbor and can stretch to 6,616 yards. It features deep grass off the fairway and wind that makes the course play even longer.
Wie had to rely on another sponsor's exemption after a final-round collapse last year sent her into a tie for 23rd. Playing her first Women's Open as a pro, she appears to be closing in on her first victory since 2003. She had birdie putts on the final hole of this year's first two majors that would have put her in a playoff, missing from 10 feet at the Kraft Nabisco and from 50 feet at the LPGA Championship.
In between, she made the cut against the men on the Asian Tour and tried to qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. But her putting needs vast improvement, along with her wedge play.
''I was counting too much on the last moment, and I know what I have to work on for the next two weeks,'' Wie said after the LPGA Championship. ''I'm really excited for the U.S. Open.''
Sorenstam has gone only three months without a victory, so a win at the U.S. Women's Open hardly would feel like a renaissance in her career. Considering how long it's been since she won the Open, though, it might feel like one.
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    M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

    By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

    LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

    Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

    Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

    Marina Alex was second after a 68.

    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

    So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

    Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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    Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

    By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

    He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

    ''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

    Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

    They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

    Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

    Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

    It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

    Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

    The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

    Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

    ''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

    The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

    ''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

    The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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    Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

    By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

    It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

    Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

    When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

    It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

    Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

    Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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    Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

    RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

    Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

    ''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

    On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

    ''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

    Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

    ''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

    Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

    Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

    ''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

    Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

    First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.