Sorenstam Having a Vijay-Like Year

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Annika Sorenstam competed against the men last year at Colonial. Now she is being compared with them.
 
Sorenstam has won nine times around the world this year, same as Vijay Singh.
 
And her four-year run as the No. 1 player on the LPGA Tour is equally impressive, if not more, to the way Tiger Woods dominated the PGA Tour during a five-year stretch.
 
'The kind of golf she's playing, it's unbelievable,' Meg Mallon said Wednesday. 'Everyone is talking about Vijay's year. She's done it for the last six years.'
 
And that's what might be most impressive of all.
 
Sorenstam comes into the season-ending ADT Championship at Trump International in the same position as the previous three years ' on top of her game, atop the money list and the player to beat on the LPGA Tour.
 
'When Annika is in the field, everybody is aware of it,' said Grace Park, who's No. 2 on the money list and will be paired with Sorenstam when the tournament starts Thursday. We know the competition will be that much tougher.'
 
Winning never gets old, but it has become routine for Sorenstam.
 
She won a major for the fourth straight year. She already has crossed the $2 million mark for the fourth straight time, an amazing feat considering no other woman has done it once. She already has wrapped up LPGA Tour player of the year and has gone four straight seasons with at least six victories.
 
The difference this year is that Sorenstam started taking more time off.
 
The ADT Championship, a season-ending tournament for the top 30 players on the money list, is only her 18th start on the LPGA Tour. She's working less off the course, but learning to get more quality out of her practice sessions.
 
The bad news for the rest of the LPGA is that she is as good as ever.
 
'I've played less and still played at the same level,' Sorenstam said. 'I stepped away from the game a lot more this year, and I'm still able to be up there. People from the outside might not see that, but I've noticed that.'
 
Sorenstam played only 17 times a year ago, but that was different. She spent long, hard hours in the gym and on the range to get ready for the Colonial, where she became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
 
'I've had more time at home and less on the road,' she said. 'I think the negative ' which I thought would be, but I haven't really noticed any ' is that I wouldn't play as much and I'd be a little more rusty. But I'm surprised how consistent I'm playing the weeks I've played.'
 
Still, she's starting to wonder how long it can last.
 
Sorenstam once dropped hints about an early retirement, although she said she would continue to play as long as she's motivated and enjoys competing.
 
The question is whether anyone can challenge her.
 
Just like with Woods, there has been a revolving door of rivals ' Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster. The fresh challenge now comes from Park, Lorena Ochoa, even Mallon, who won the U.S. Women's Open.
 
'When you have a player on top dominating, people catch up,' Sorenstam said. 'It's just a matter of time. It's tough to be on top. I've always found it easier to chase something or somebody.'
 
She was on top last year at Trump International, taking a three-shot lead into the final round and everyone assumed the tournament was over. Mallon had other ideas, rallying with a 67 for a one-shot victory.
 
Now, the defending champion is just happy to be playing.
 
Mallon's back went out on her two weeks ago, causing her to miss two LPGA events and a silly season event against the men. She figured she was day-to-day when she arrived Monday, and managed to get through the pro-am.
 
'I will be very grateful for teeing off,' she said. 'I will be very grateful for getting through a round of golf without having my back go out. But I also need to get myself mentally saying, `You need to be competitive.' Hopefully, that will all come into play.'
 
No matter what she does at Trump International, nothing will take away from Mallon's year. She won the biggest trophy in women's golf at the U.S. Open. She also won the Canadian Open, and a third event in Ohio, not far from where she went to college at Ohio State.
 
'It was a magical summer for me,' Mallon said.
 
Sorenstam feels the same way about her season, even though everyone is used to the results.
 
'Maybe people take it for granted, but I definitely don't,' Sorenstam said. 'I'm very proud of this year. I think I've played some excellent golf. When you don't play as much, maybe people don't pay attention.'
 
But it's hard to ignore what she has done ' and continues to do.
 
Related links:
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    Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 7:20 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.

    TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.

    He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.

    “Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”


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    Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.

    The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.

    “Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”

    Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.

    “Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”

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    Only putting is holding McIlroy back

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:48 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.

    McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.

    McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.


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    “I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”

    McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.

    “I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Toski lively, singing and ready to go home

    By Tim RosaforteJune 22, 2018, 6:41 pm

    Bob Toski sounded pretty good for a man near death last week. When we spoke on Friday, the 91-year-old teaching legend and former PGA Tour leading money winner was alive and feeling well. Especially when he was talking about giving lessons, swinging a golf club again, and going down to the piano bar at Arturo’s near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., to sing his favorite song, “Sentimental Journey."

    “It’s been quite a journey,” Toski said in total bliss. “But I’m going home tomorrow.”

    Going back 10 days, to June 12, Toski suffered a severe heart attack that had him on life support, in critical condition, at a hospital not far from the South Florida golf community where he’s pro emeritus at St. Andrews.

    He opened 15 minutes on the phone on Friday by asking how much he owed me for the publicity he got during the U.S. Open. Typical Toski. His heart may have skipped a beat, but he hadn’t.

    At no more than 120 pounds, still larger than life.


    Bob Toski from his hospital bed in South Florida


    “This is the mouse,” he said when asked to confirm it really was him on the phone. “The Mighty Mouse.”

    We were laughing now, but there was a moment one night during “Live From the U.S. Open” when I got a message from the Boca hospital which sounded grim (hospital staff used a defibrillator on him six times during his stay). That’s when one of the friends by his side texted me and said it would be just like “Tosk” to sit up straight and ask everybody what was going on.

    Essentially, that’s what happened. And now here he was on the phone, cracking off one-liners, talking about Brooks Koepka’s win at Shinnecock, giving his take on the USGA and course setup, asking how much I’d been playing, and giving his love to everybody at “The Channel.”

    He invited me down for a lesson at St. Andrews and dinner at Arturos. “In a month’s time,” he said, “I’ll be ready to go.”

    He sounded ready right now, singing a line from his favorite song, from his hospital bed in the happiest of voices, “Gotta set my heart at ease.”

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    Spieth fades with 3-over 73: 'It's just golf'

    By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:10 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – After finding nothing but positives for his first five trips around the course, Jordan Spieth finally suffered a setback at TPC River Highlands.

    Spieth won the Travelers Championship last year in his tournament debut, and he quickly bounced back from a missed cut at Shinnecock Hills by firing a 7-under 63 in the opening round this week to take a share of the lead. Out early during the second round with a chance to move even further into red figures amid calm conditions, he instead went the other way.

    Undone by a triple bogey on the par-5 13th hole, Spieth was 5 over for his first 14 holes and needed an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole for the second straight day simply to salvage a 3-over 73. The score knocked him back to 4 under for the week and six shots behind Brian Harman.

    Despite finding three fewer fairways, three fewer greens in regulation and taking five more putts than he did in the opening round, Spieth still put a positive spin on a lackluster result.


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    “I actually felt like I had better control of my golf swing than I did yesterday. I really struggled with my swing yesterday and I kind of got some good breaks,” Spieth said. “It’s just golf. It’s kind of like yesterday I got three or four shots extra out of the round, and today I lost three or four based on how I felt.”

    Spieth was happy with his opening-round effort, but even after finishing late in the day he still went straight to the driving range that lines the ninth fairway at TPC River Highlands – not exactly standard behavior after grabbing a share of the lead.

    “So it’s not like things are on,” he said. “Sometimes it can get disguised by rounds, but it’s not far off. It really is close.”

    Spieth has lamented a lack of quality chances to win this year, which he has previously described as being within six shots of the lead heading into the final round. He’ll have some work to do to meet that mark this weekend in defense of his title, as his round hit a snag on No. 13, his fourth hole of the morning, when he pulled his tee shot out of bounds and then hit his subsequent approach into the water.

    “For whatever reason, it’s a large fairway but it’s always just killed me,” Spieth said. “I don’t know what it is about the hole, but that hole I get on the tee and for whatever reason I struggle. … I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time there.”