New Stop a Haven for Long Hitters

By Associated PressMarch 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. -- The Phoenix stop on the LPGA Tour has a new home, and it's a haven for long hitters.
 
'It's a bomber's course, and it's just beautiful,' said 14-year-old Michelle Wie of Hawaii, who had seven drives 285 yards or longer in her pro-am round Tuesday.
 
The Safeway International was known as the Safeway Ping when it was played on the cozier Moon Valley Country Club course in north Phoenix a year ago.
 
It has moved 50 miles to the east, to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Prospector Course at the Superstition Mountain Golf Club, site of the 2001 Tradition on the Champions Tour.
 
One big reason for the move is money. There are 36 holes available for pro-am play, and that doubles the amount of earnings from amateurs who pay $5,000 apiece to participate.
 
The four-day, $1.2 million event begins Thursday on a par-72, 6,620-yard course lined with luxury homes -- some still under construction -- in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains, where legend has it the lost Dutchman gold mine lies waiting to be rediscovered.
 
The course is longer than any of last year's LPGA layouts, including the U.S. Women's Open. It's nearly 500 yards longer than the site of last week's season-opening Welch's/Fry's Championship in Tucson, where Karen Stupples shot 22-under par for a tour-record raw score of 258.
 
The Prospector Course is about 100 yards longer than the Mission Hills layout for next week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the season's first major.
 
'This golf course is in such good shape that it prepares us really well for next week,' said Annika Sorenstam, who makes her season debut this week. 'It's a bit longer than we used to play at Moon Valley. I think the greens are firmer, the rough a little thicker, so I think it's good preparation.'
 
A long course is fine with Sorenstam, who won the LPGA driving title last year with a 269.7-yard average. Besides, she has some good memories of Phoenix. She won at Moon Valley in 2001, when she shot an LPGA record 59 in the second round. She tied for third a year ago, four shots behind winner Se Ri Pak.
 
This year, Sorenstam is aiming for a grand slam sweep of the four majors, something never accomplished in women's golf.
 
'I played in Australia three weeks ago, played really well,' she said, 'and enjoyed two weeks off, one week doing nothing and another week of just practicing, so I feel like I'm playing as good as I can.'
 
Not everything is to Wie's liking in the first of six LPGA events she plans to enter this year.
 
'It's kind of hot,' she said.
 
That's true, even by Arizona standards for mid-March. Temperatures are expected to top 90 degrees through the weekend.
 
The course has four par-5s, all longer than 500 yards. Pak won at 23-under 265 a year ago at Moon Valley. This year she thinks 13 under might be enough, considering the combination of long holes and extremely firm greens.
 
'I haven't really planned for this golf course yet,' Pak said after her practice round on Wednesday. 'This golf course I don't think is easy at all.'
 
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    Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

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    Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

    Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

    Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

    Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

    Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

    Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

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    Sergio Garcia might be finding his form just in time to terrorize the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

    Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.

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    Watch: 100mph storm destroys tent at St. Andrews

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    The Old Course at St. Andrews has endured all sorts of wacky weather over the years, but things ratcheted up a notch this week with the arrival of Storm Ali.

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