Sorenstam Half-Way to Grand Slam

By Associated PressJune 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 U.S. WomenAnnika Sorenstam's toughest challenger might be history. No one has won the first three legs of the professional Grand Slam, male or female. Ever since Arnold Palmer resurrected the notion in 1960 of sweeping the four majors in one calendar year, only five other players have even made it halfway there. Then again, Sorenstam is unlike any other.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has won six of her eight starts this season.
'She is a different breed,' said Pat Bradley, the last woman to win the first two majors of the year. 'She is so solid in everything she does. She has no weakness. She does not take anything for granted. She does not say, 'Who's going to finish second?' She treats each week as a separate tournament.'
Rosie Jones was a mere bystander at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in late March, finishing eight shots behind in second place. The competition came from 15-year-old Michelle Wie at the LPGA Championship, where Sorenstam played the par 5s in 3 over par and bogeyed the last two holes ' and still won by three shots.
The next stop on this incredible journey is the U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills Country Club outside Denver, at 6,749 yards the longest course in the 60-year history of the championship.
Her most daunting opponent might not be a player, but the pressure of closing in on an audacious goal that Sorenstam stated at the start of the year.
'I know it's going to be a lot of pressure,' Sorenstam said. 'That's the goal I set, and if I want to achieve my goal, that's what I will have to accept.'
Defending champion Meg Mallon compared her with Babe Ruth pointing to center field during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and hitting the next pitch over the fence.
'She called her shot, just like the Babe,' Mallon said. 'That would be pretty amazing if she did it.'
That's not a concession, however.
Mallon beat her last year at Orchards Golf Club in western Massachusetts. Mallon closed with a 6-under 65, the lowest final round in Women's Open history, to beat Sorenstam by two shots.
Three years ago at Prairie Dunes in Kansas, Sorenstam had a two-shot lead going into the final round and looked unbeatable until Juli Inkster fired a 4-under 66 for a two-shot victory.
And to show that Sorenstam indeed is human, she needed a birdie on the par-5 18th hole at Pumpkin Ridge in 2003 to win the Women's Open, but hit her 4-wood next to a portable toilet, wound up taking bogey and finished one stroke out of a playoff won by unheralded Hilary Lunke.
Sorenstam returns to Colorado for the first time in 10 years, when she claimed her first LPGA Tour victory at the U.S. Women's Open by overcoming a five-shot deficit and her own nerves down the stretch to win at the Broadmoor. She repeated as champion the next year at Pine Needles, winning by six shots.
But she hasn't won the biggest tournament in women's golf the last eight years.
'There was nothing else I could have done,' Sorenstam said about her losses to Mallon and Inkster. 'Sometimes that just happens. We'll see what happens this year.'
Her well-rounded game can be traced to some time spent with the men ' first at the Colonial two years ago, where she became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour; then a few friendly practice rounds with Tiger Woods, with whom she shares an agent.
Sorenstam sent Woods a text message after winning the LPGA Championship ' '9-9' ' reminding him that they now are tied in career majors. This might be one race that Woods will lose.
'We worked on our short games together this fall. You can't believe how hard she works,' Woods said. 'She didn't get to this level by just hoping she could play well. She went out and worked, and took it to another level.'
Mallon and Inkster are among the few who have taken on Sorenstam during a final round and defeated her, and it's that kind of experience that might be required.
Cristie Kerr is the highest-ranked player behind Sorenstam on the LPGA money list, but her victory in Kingsmill was her first with Sorenstam in the field.
Wie should not be overlooked, either, especially after a whirlwind week. She not only finished second at the LPGA Championship ' the only player to break par all four days ' but she was co-medalist at a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Amateur Public Links, becoming the first female to qualify at a USGA championship for adult males.
Wie has finished second twice on the LPGA Tour this year, both times in her first tournament after competing against men.
'She put a lot of pressure on herself last year saying she wanted to win the Grand Slam,' Wie said. 'This year, she has a very high possibility. She has two more left, but I think all the other players, including me, are going to practice harder trying to stop her.'
Sorenstam has a presence about her that compares with Woods when he won nine times, including three straight majors, in his record-setting 2000 season.
'You'd like to see pressure put on her to make a mistake ' put a little tightness in her swing, put a little tightness in her putt,' Mallon said. 'The thing is, she separates herself so much, there isn't that coming-down-the-stretch business. She gets it done. Whether she has a psychological advantage on her opponents, that could very well be.'
Bradley recalls winning the first two majors in 1986 with little fanfare, but it became unavoidable when she arrived at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, for the Women's Open. There was no ducking the hype, and she said she put herself under so much stress that she suffered headaches.
'It was very difficult to go about my business, and I shot 76 the first day,' Bradley said.
She wound up two shots out of a playoff, in a tie for fifth. She went on to win the du Maurier Classic, making her the last woman to win three majors in one year.
Sorenstam has been in the spotlight since the start of the season, when she again said the Grand Slam was her primary goal, and she has not backed off. She already has won six of the eight tournaments she has played, and she made the first two majors look easy.
'I don't think anything is going to stop her,' Bradley said. 'I believe in my heart that Annika is the only one who can do this. She has embraced it, she has declared it, she is doing everything in her power to have it happen.'
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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

    Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

    The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

    On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

    Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

    In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.