The World Will Be Watching Sorenstam
That was the 1945 Los Angeles Open, and it wound up as only a footnote among the amazing accomplishments of Babe Zaharias.
Annika Sorenstam might not be so lucky. No matter what happens when Sorenstam plays in the PGA Tour's Colonial in May, it could become the defining moment of her career.
That's one reason Tiger Woods offered his support with caution.
``I think it's great she's playing, but ' this is the 'but' part ' it will only be great for women's golf if she plays well,'' Woods said. ``I think if she goes out there and posts two high scores, I think it's going to be more detrimental than it's going to be good.''
Years from now, more people will remember what she did at Colonial ' whether she made the cut or missed it badly ' than how many LPGA Tour events Sorenstam won.
She is not trying to champion a cause. Sorenstam said to put women's golf entirely on her shoulders would be a heavy load, and that's not why she's playing.
``I'm not here to prove anything. I'm here to test myself,'' she said.
Still, the question was quick to arise when Sorenstam first mentioned Jan. 22 that she would say ``yes in a heartbeat'' if offered an invitation to play on the PGA Tour.
Does the perception of women's golf depend on her performance?
Sorenstam said women in the sport already face unfair comparisons with men, from the prize money to the size and setup of the golf courses they play.
``It would be more beneficial if I did well,'' she said. ``If not, then I don't think it would change anything.''
But there already is a precedent.
Go back two years to the ``Battle at Bighorn,'' when Sorenstam and Woods played against David Duval and Karrie Webb in a made-for-TV exhibition designed to showcase the women in a format (mixed teams) where they couldn't fail.
Then, gusts up to 30 mph hit the California desert about 15 minutes before showtime, creating some of the toughest conditions all year.
Sorenstam made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff that she and Woods won, but that's not what people remember. The lasting image was Sorenstam's knocking a 25-foot birdie putt off the green and into the fairway. Also, neither woman managed to hit the 18th fairway in regulation or the playoff.
``It was a very difficult day,'' Sorenstam said. ``I learned something, and that's just how I look at things ' to move on and get better.''
It is pointless to predict what might happen at Colonial. Phil Mickelson says she will finish 20th. Jeff Sluman believes she can make the cut. Privately, other players say she has no chance of getting to the weekend without a rain delay.
``I have no expectations of how I will finish,'' Sorenstam said.
But whether this is the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour or the Battle at Bighorn, one thing about golf never changes.
Everyone will be keeping score.
``If she makes the cut, does that prove anything?'' Brad Faxon asked. ``If she finishes 40th or 20th? Is that a gauge for what? We already know she's the best woman golfer.''
There is a certain mystique about Sorenstam that she created by becoming the first woman to shoot 59. Her rhythmic swing, the head rotating down the fairway just before she makes contact, is the most intimidating in women's golf. She rarely makes mistakes.
Still, as recently as two years ago, she wasn't even the best in women's golf. It was Webb who dominated the LPGA by winning the career Grand Slam, winning back-to-back U.S. Women's Opens by a combined 13 strokes and drawing comparisons to Mickey Wright.
Despite her awesome record, Sorenstam has won only four majors in nine years. Webb has won five majors, Juli Inkster seven.
``If she built up her record and won, let's say, 10 majors, then nothing could take away from that no matter what she did at Colonial,'' Woods said.
Zaharias was the last woman to play on the PGA Tour. She qualified for the Los Angeles Open and made the 36-hole cut, only to get eliminated the next day with a 79.
Such a feat isn't even mentioned in the ``Story of American Golf'' by Herbert Warren Wind. Zaharias is best known as the greatest female athlete in the first half of the 20th century ' she won gold medals at the 1932 Olympics in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw and claimed 10 major championships in golf.
Sorenstam got more attention for accepting an invitation to the Colonial than for anything she has ever done on the LPGA Tour, from her 59 to winning more tournaments last season (13) than any golfer in nearly 40 years.
Some major newspapers already plan to cover Sorenstam's first LPGA tournament in Phoenix. She will be in the spotlight in all six of the tournaments she plays before she gets to the Colonial.
Sorenstam might not want to carry women's golf on her broad shoulders, but it will be along for the ride.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.
Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.
They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.
The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.
Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.
Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.
Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.
Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.
“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”
No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.
On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.
“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.
“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”
A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.
“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”
Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship
It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)
How to watch:
Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Purse: $6 million
Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)
Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship
• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open
• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts
• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)
• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)
• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)
Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17
Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.
Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.
Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.
"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."
But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.
After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.
"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."