New Course Awaits Annikas Shot at History
With a victory, Sorenstam can become the first LPGA Tour player to win the same major three straight years. But she wont be able to rely on her winning experiences at DuPont Country Club to accomplish the feat.
The Swedish star will have to figure out Bulle Rock golf course, the new home of the event.
After 18 years in Wilmington, Del., the LPGA Championship shifted 40 miles south to Maryland and Bulle Rock, a Pete Dye design with plenty of elevation changes, challenging short and long holes, slick, undulating greens and the Dye staple'railroad ties.
Bulle Rock will play about 6,500 yards to a par of 72 for the event June 9-12 that also will feature 15-year-old Michelle Wie.
Sorenstam said she will miss DuPont.
I love the old, traditional golf courses, with the tall trees, she said. Its a demanding golf course in many ways. You have to hit it long, you have to be accurate, you have firm greens and you have rough. Put that together and that means a great golf course for a major championship.
In last years final round, Sorenstam played down the wrong fairway and hit a wedge from just under 100 yards over a row of trees and past a bunker within 3 feet for a birdie at No. 16 that helped secure a three-shot victory.
It was one of those career shots that Ill never forget, she said.
The venue change leaves Sorenstam with mixed feelings.
I finally figured out the course and theyre moving the event, Sorenstam said Monday in a conference call at the tournaments media day. Ive heard a lot of wonderful things about the new place ... I just hope it wont take seven or eight years to figure it out.
After a tie for 30th in the 1998 LPGA, Sorenstam finished tied for 16th (99), tied for 12th (2000), fifth (01) and third (02) before winning consecutive titles.
Not much has stumped Sorenstam during the last few years. She has won six of her last seven tournaments, and eight of the last 11.
She failed in a bid to win a record six straight events at Kingsmill two weeks ago, and settled for tying Nancy Lopezs record of five in a row.
Since the start of the 2001 season, she has won 37 times overall and raised her LPGA Tour win total to 60, tied with Patty Berg for third place on the career list behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82).
But records dont drive Sorenstam, goals do. And one of her pursuits this year is the Grand Slam. After a victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Championship is the next step.
Its in the back of my mind, Sorenstam said. I know what I want to do, and now Im focusing more on the process of how to do it.
Sorenstam doesnt expect to change the way she prepares for the event just because theres a possible record in the offing.
Im going to stay with my routine, she said. Ive tried different strategies to try to defend a title, coming in a few weeks early to play a round or two. But it never really worked out for me. So, Im going to stick to what I normally do.
Im excited about the opportunity to play a new golf course.
Patty Sheehan, a three-time winner of the LPGA Championship, is confident Sorenstam can adapt quickly to the conditions at Bulle Rock.
Shes winning more than shes losing, said Sheehan, a six-time major champion with 35 career titles. So, I think the odds are that shes going to come in here and learn the golf course quickly, and if she doesnt win, Ill be surprised.
And while Sorenstam has shown she can get from tee to green as well as any player, she might need to brush up on her geography heading into the second major of the year.
Laying out her plans heading into the event, Sorenstam mixed up her directions.
Ill defend my title at the Corning Classic in two weeks, and then Im playing ShopRite (outside Atlantic City), she said.
Ill head a little north, Sorenstam said, drawing a few chuckles from the crowd before being corrected.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai
SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.
Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.
Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.
''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''
Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).
Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.
''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''
Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.
Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).
The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.
Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him
Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.
Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.
As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.
"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."
Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.
"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."
Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.
"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."
Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1
There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).
No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.
On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.
The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.
"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."
It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."
Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp
Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.
Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)
What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.
Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.
Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.
Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.
Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.