Pressure Annikas Biggest Opponent

By Associated PressJune 22, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 U.S. WomenCHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- Annika Sorenstam engaged in a friendly match Wednesday at Cherry Hills, trying her best to treat this U.S. Women's Open like any other week instead of such a grand occasion.
 
``Let's go, you've got to make some birdies,'' she teased Lorena Ochoa on the par-3 sixth tee. ``I'm going to have to send you an invoice.''
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has won six of her eight starts this season.
Ochoa pulled her tee shot into the rough. Sorenstam's shot never left the flag.
 
But when she settled into her chair before a room crammed with reporters and television cameras, Sorenstam was reminded that this is no ordinary week. Having already won the first two major championships of the year, Sorenstam has reached a critical juncture in her quest for the Grand Slam.
 
``This is a great challenge for me. This is a true test for me, to see if I can handle it,'' she said. ``This is the challenge I've been looking for, and it's all about controlling your emotions and your shots out there.''
 
Adding to the drama is the historical significance of Cherry Hills.
 
It was on this tree-lined course 45 years ago that Arnold Palmer charged from behind to win the U.S. Open, which inspired him to resurrect the concept of a Grand Slam -- winning all four majors in one year.
 
Palmer never got it done, losing by one shot at the British Open.
 
Mickey Wright, Jack Nicklaus, Pat Bradley and Tiger Woods all got halfway there when circumstances intervened, whether it was their own errant shots, bad weather or great golf by someone else.
 
Bradley recalled a week at the 1986 U.S. Women's Open in which there was a chemical spill near the course that kept players from returning to their hotel, and a tornado. Palmer dealt with torrential rain that canceled a round. Woods ran into raging winds at Muirfield, sending him to an 81.
 
``To win the slam, you have to be able to control yourself,'' Palmer said Wednesday morning from his office in Latrobe, Pa. ``Then there are outside factors you have no control over, that people don't think about. You've just got to hope they work out for you.
 
``Unquestionably, she's got the golf,'' Palmer said. ``As long as she keeps her cool, I think she can do it.''
 
There is little evidence anyone can stop her.
 
Sorenstam built a five-shot lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and won by eight. Two weeks ago the LPGA Championship, she again led by five shots after 54 holes and was never seriously challenged. The best anyone could do was Michelle Wie, a 15-year-old who hits prodigious drives but still isn't old enough to drive a car.
 
Cherry Hills presents a different test.
 
The rough is thicker than anything the women saw at Mission Hills or Bulle Rock, sites of the first two majors. The greens were still relatively soft Wednesday, but the targets are smaller than they seem because of the slope. At 6,749 yards, this is the longest course in Women's Open history.
 
In other words, it's perfect for Sorenstam.
 
``She'll be tough to be beat,'' Laura Davies said. ``I'm sure she was pleased when she saw this for the first time, because it's right up her alley. It favors accuracy and length, and that's her forte. If she can blow away the field, this is the golf course she can do it on.''
 
The greatest challenge might be the pressure.
 
Sorenstam laid out her grand plans a year ago -- she wanted to be the first player, male or female, to win the four professional majors in the same year -- before failing to win the first one.
 
Now that she has won the first two, she has become increasingly aware of the history she can make.
 
``I'm only halfway,'' she said. ``These next two are going to be the toughest two.''
 
Asked later what made the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open next month at Royal Birkdale the toughest two legs of the Grand Slam, she quickly replied, ``Because the pressure is building.''
 
She is certainly no stranger to pressure.
 
There was a time two years ago when Sorenstam wasn't sure she could lift her 4-wood off the ground as she stood on the 10th tee at Colonial, some 10,000 people gathered around to see her become the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
 
In many respects, her missed cut at Colonial prepared her for times like these.
 
The 34-year-old Swede has won 19 of 38 times on the LPGA Tour since Colonial, and five of the last nine majors. She has looked unbeatable at times this year, winning six of her eight starts.
 
But respect and appreciation should not be mistaken for a white flag of surrender.
 
Meg Mallon found the secret to beating Sorenstam last year at the Women's Open, closing with a 65 at the Orchards for a two-shot victory. Juli Inkster got it done three years ago at Prairie Dunes, shooting a 66 in the final round to go from a two-shot deficit to a two-shot victory.
 
``Every player out here is a great player,'' Mallon said. ``They just have to figure out how they're going to play great themselves. That's what I did so well last year. That's how players have to approach it. They can't start playing another player, especially in golf.''
 
Then again, Sorenstam keeps taking her game to new heights.
 
Her golf is robotic at times, an amazing display of fairways and greens. She has practiced with Tiger Woods to put imagination into her short game and adding more distance between herself and those trying to chase her.
 
``She finds her weaknesses and makes them better,'' Mallon said. ``She was good, but she made herself great.''
 
Over the next four days, Sorenstam will find out if she can continue her quest to be simply grand.
 
Related Links:
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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”