Notes Busy Time for Annika Stricker Chooses Family
Starting next week, she will be playing in four straight tournaments -- but only two on the LPGA Tour.
Sorenstam will play in Dubai next week on the Ladies European Tour, then go to Japan for the Mizuno Classic, an LPGA event she has won the last five years. Instead of playing the Tournament of Champions in Alabama, however, Sorenstam has agreed to play in Greg Norman's Merrill Lynch Shootout in Naples, Fla., where Fred Couples will be her partner. The season ends at the ADT Championship.
Sorenstam has not played the Tournament of Champions since 2002, and it was never in her plans. Then again, she usually has the points-based award wrapped up by now.
'I can't really add any more because I'm playing every week,' she said. 'If there was some more tournaments, maybe I would add some. I gave it a run. I had a lot of tournaments to catch them.'
Sorenstam is not mathematically eliminated. She would have to win the Mizuno Classic and ADT Championship, and hope that Ochoa finishes outside the top three at her final two events, in Alabama and the Trump International.
Not quite two months after the PGA TOUR announced its fall schedule, it has hit a speed bump with one of them.
Because of construction delays and financial issues surrounding the Running Horse Golf and Country Club, tour officials will be going to Fresno, Calif., this week to meet with the developers.
The Running Horse Golf Championship is to be played Oct. 25-28 next year, the second-to-last event on the 2007 schedule. Along with falling behind on the course, KFSN-TV in Fresno has reported that the managing partners are trying to sell it.
'Things at the golf course are going slower than we thought they were,' PGA TOUR spokesman Bob Combs said. 'I understand there are one or maybe more groups looking at investing in it. But from our perspective, we're playing in Fresno.'
One option for the tour if Running Horse is not ready would be to move it to another golf course in the area, such as Fort Washington.
'We believe Running Horse is going to be the site,' Combs said. 'If it turns out to be another one, we'll cross that bridge. The key thing is we'll be there.'
TIME TO COME HOME
This should sound familiar: A PGA TOUR player deeply devoted to his family stops playing until the Bob Hope Classic because he wants to spend time at home.
For Steve Stricker, his decision means leaving a lot on the table.
It has been an amazing year for Stricker, who failed to get through the final stage of Q-school and could only get in three tournaments the first 15 weeks of the season. With two top 10s in the majors and solid play just about everywhere else, he was considered for the Ryder Cup team and moved all the way up to No. 32 on the money list.
Stricker, however, turned down exemptions to Greensboro and Disney. His season is over.
'I really don't have much to gain getting in the Tour Championship, other than the prestige,' he said. 'I'm in the U.S. majors next year. I've got a 5-month-old daughter, and it's nice to be at home. All my tournaments came at a compressed time, which was good. I have no complaints. It was a great year. But my wife is ready to have me at home. And I was ready to go home.'
This is nothing new.
Stricker, a Midwestern man at heart, usually stops playing in September to spend time with his children (he also has an 8-year-old) in Wisconsin and to hunt. He hasn't had a choice the last few years, and sure didn't think he would have that luxury this year.
Laura Davies qualified for the Samsung World Championship with a recent surge that put her atop the Ladies European Tour money list. But it wasn't enough to turn her back on a commitment to a friend.
Davies had pledged to walk 56 miles of the Great Wall of China to raise money for Great Ormond Street, the hospital that is treating the 1-year-old daughter of Helen Dobson. Davies and Dobson played on the Curtis Cup team together, and Dobson's daughter has Down's syndrome.
It can be a daunting walk, especially as the wall narrows.
'You know me, I never do anything I don't want to do,' Davies told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Britain.
It was rough, even after walking. The 43-year-old Davies stayed in farm houses with thin walls, hard beds, cold water and toilets that amounted to holes in the ground. And for meals? An evening bowl of rice.
'If I haven't lost weight, it will be a travesty,' Davies said.
One thing she was sure to gain was respect.
SAMSUNG ON THE MOVE?
With sparse galleries and a pedestrian performance from Michelle Wie, perhaps the biggest buzz at the Samsung World Championship was its possible relocation next year to Pebble Beach.
No deal has been signed, nor has the tournament decided where to stage the 2007 event.
The 20-player field has been held at 14 courses in its 27-year history, from Florida to California, from Australia to South Korea. It has been in California since 2000, first at Hiddenbrooke in Vallejo, the last three years at Bighorn.
Should it move to Pebble Beach, the only question is: Which course?
The famous Pebble Beach Golf Links is not one of the options, because the dates for next year already are booked. That could leave a course such as Del Monte or Poppy Hills, perhaps Spyglass Hill or Spanish Bay.
Tournament officials said the Samsung could return to Bighorn next year if a move to Pebble doesn't work out.
Ian Baker-Finch will remain a big part of TV coverage next year, switching over to CBS Sports as an analyst. ... Geoff Ogilvy picked up his third big prize of the year -- the birth of his first child. He and his wife, Juli, celebrated the birth of Phoebe Elizabeth on Oct. 10. Ogilvy won a World Golf Championship in February and the U.S. Open in June. ... John Cook received a sponsor's exemption to the Funai Classic at Disney, and he needs a big week. He is No. 126 on the money list, $648 behind Brian Bateman.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Samsung World Championship was the fifth time since 2001 that Annika Sorenstam has failed to win after leading by at least three shots going into the final round.
'No one is ever going to be 100 percent happy with me. I'm not ever going to be 100 percent happy with everyone in the entire world. That's normal. It would be pretty scary if everyone was happy all the time.' -- Michelle Wie.
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”
Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.
He picked up his clubs three times.
That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.
This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.
Not that he was concerned, of course.
Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.
“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”
At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.
“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”
Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.
Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.
“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”
Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.
In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.
That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.
“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.
“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.
Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”
So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.
Despite results, Thomas loves links golf
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.
Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.
Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.
“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”
Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.
He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.
“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.
“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”