Sorenstam Streaking into History

By Associated PressMay 3, 2005, 4:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam was in South Korea six months ago when something strange happened.
She didnt win.
That seems hard to fathom these days because Sorenstam hasnt lost since. The following week in Japan, she won the Mizuno Classic by nine shots to start a streak that has reached five consecutive victories, matching the LPGA Tour record set by Nancy Lopez in 1978.
The biggest difference is that Sorenstam has built her streak over six months; Lopez did it in six weeks.
Sorenstam hasnt even played in five weeks, taking the longest break of her season after winning her eighth career major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Next up is the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill this week, and a chance to make history with her sixth win in a row.
One in a row is a good run, deadpanned Juli Inkster. I cant imagine five in a row.
Even more difficult is imagining anyone capable of beating her.
Sorenstams run is similar to what Tiger Woods did at the end of the 1999 season and the start of 2000, when he won six straight PGA Tour events and made everyone wonder'ever so briefly'whether Byron Nelsons record of 11 straight wins in 1945 really was out of reach.
It was'at least by a man.
Sorenstam simply looks unstoppable.
She doesnt do anything bad, Inkster said. Its not like shes overpowering. If she gets in trouble, she doesnt knock it around or over the trees. She gets it back in the fairway and gets on the green. She knows shes going to make five or six birdies. And if she shoots 1 or 2 under, she knows shes going to have that round at 5 or 6 under. She knows what she wants to do on the golf course.
That alone might explain why Sorenstam has never appeared so calm and confident.
She has become the most dominant player in golf, with 28 victories and five majors in her last 61 starts. Woods won 19 times in 38 starts on the PGA Tour from 1999 to 2001, five of those majors. He separated himself so much from his peers that it raised two questions that now must be asked of Sorenstam.
Is she that good?
Or is the competition that bad?
Its a bit of both, much like it was with him, said Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer who now works as a TV analyst. I thought at one time when he was so good, these players were going to have to tag-team him; if one wasnt there every week, the other had to be. And I think thats true in womens golf.
She is good to the point that four or five of the next best players have to tag-team here and not make it easy for her, not make it where she wins by eight.
But who are they?
The next two players on the LPGA money list, Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr, have not won this year, and both have lost final-round leads to Sorenstam. Kerr shot a 75 on the final day in Mexico; Ochoa had a four-shot lead with three holes in Phoenix and wound up losing in a playoff.
Inkster, 44, overcame a two-shot deficit against Sorenstam to beat her in the 2002 U.S. Womens Open, but she failed to win last year for the first time since 1996. Meg Mallon stared down Sorenstam to win the Womens Open last year, but she is 42 and has struggled early in the season.
Karrie Webb is on a slow road of swing changes. Grace Park'the last player to beat Sorenstam'is searching for consistency and dealing with injury. Se Ri Pak appears lost. Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie are still in high school.
Its not that were bad, Inkster said. Were just not as consistent as her. We dont get things done easily.
Woods winning streak on the PGA Tour ended at Torrey Pines, and then he created an even wider gap by winning four consecutive majors, two of them runaways.
That might be where Sorenstam is headed.
She has a swing that repeats itself better than anyone in golf.
She has gained power without losing accuracy. She has played her last 43 rounds at par or better. And with 59 career victories, the 34-year-old Swede now can aim at Kathy Whitworths record of 88 career victories. Sorenstam is hungrier than ever.
For now, the comparisons lie with Lopez.
Rankin was around for both streaks'as a player in 1978, as a TV analyst in 2005.
Lopez received more attention, perhaps because she was only 21 and loaded with charisma.
It was magical, Rankin said. I remember one par 5 at the LPGA Championship when Nancys third shot was a screaming blade over the green and into weeds up to her knees, and she holed it from there. Thats how that streak was going. Everyone was just shaking their head.
Now, they shake their head at this streak for a different reason. Annika is deadly precision.
The streak is important, for no other reason than Sorenstam wants to win every time she plays. But topping the list is the Grand Slam, and she already took care of the first leg by winning Nabisco by eight shots.
If the winning streak were more important, she would not have taken five weeks off. Instead, she returns at a time when she can allow her game to peak for the LPGA Championship on June 9-12, followed by the U.S. Womens Open two weeks after that.
And its not unreasonable to believe the streak might be going strong through the majors.
Sorenstam is that good.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”