Sorenstam Steps Away

By Brian HewittMay 13, 2008, 4:00 pm
To anyone who has been paying extra close attention, this announcement came as no surprise. The timing, on the other hand, was a stunner, if not a downright shock.
Annika Sorenstam, arguably the greatest female golfer of all time, told the world Tuesday she will step away from tournament golf at the end of the year.
And she told us this just two days after her third 2008 victory early in a season that now promises to be even more freighted with meaning as she duels with Lorena Ochoa right up to, and through, the bittersweet end on the LPGA Tour which figures to be the ADT Championship in late November.
I feel strong and I feel healthy, Sorenstam said during a packed press conference in New Jersey at the Sybase Classic where she is playing this week. Im leaving the game on my own terms.
The immediate facts you need to know before you try to put this into any kind of perspective are these:
  • Sorenstam is 37 years old and engaged to be married to Mike McGee in January.
  • Sorenstam made no secret of the fact that she wants to have a family.
  • Sorenstams 72 career victories are 16 behind LPGA career leader Kathy Whitworths 88 and 50 ahead of her current rival, 26-year-old Lorena Ochoa.
    My quick take/prediction: Sometime in late 2009 Annika Sorenstam will become a mother. Sometime in 2010 she will decide whether she wants to return to the LPGA or bear another a child. If she decides on the former, she will unretire.
    December (in Europe) will be my last tournament, Annika said, If its forever, Im not sure.
    Of course, her 2008 season is far from over. She still has three more majors in which to compete, including the upcoming McDonald's LPGA Championship, which begins June 5 and can be seen exclusively on GOLF CHANNEL.
    With all due respect'and Annika, more than most, has earned our respect'guesses about her future shouldnt and wont matter.
    Its her life. From the time she showed up on the LPGA TOUR in the early 90s, after a spectacular college run at the University of Arizona, Annika has remained a genuinely nice person.
    She is still shy. She is still ferociously competitive. But she has never displayed a mean streak that so many champions in individual sports use to fuel their hunger to succeed.
    Annika Sorenstam has consistently respected her opponents, her fans and the media members who have chronicled her inexorable march to the World Golf Hall of Fame and beyond.
    Eight times she was named the LPGAs Player of the Year. She captured 10 major championships.
    In 2001 Annika shot a 59 at the Standard Register PING and became the first women to earn more than $2 million in a single season. In 2002 she won 11 times. In 2003 she played in a mens event, the Bank of America Colonial, and almost made the cut.
    At the end of 2006 she hurt her neck and back and even managed to keep it, for a long period, from her longtime caddie Terry McNamara.
    The pain caught up with her in 2007, forcing her to play an abbreviated schedule and finish the year without a victory for the first time since 1994.
    But 2007 was also the year McGee, son of former PGA TOUR pro Jerry McGee, proposed. She accepted and they agreed to be wed in 2009. Insiders knew back then it was just a matter of time before she would stop playing golf and prepare to be a mother.
    When I talked to McNamara at the Kraft Nabisco in early April he told me Annika was almost back to her best form save for a few yards she had lost off the tee. Annika bravely fought off a stomach ailment that week that forced her to lie down on the tee box while waiting to drive on several holes on the weekend.
    Annika finished second, five back of Ochoa at Kraft Nabisco. Last week in Virginia, she beat the rest of the field by seven shots. Ochoa wound up 12 back of Sorenstam.
    This was the start, everybody figured, of a wild ride on the LPGA this year that would pit Sorenstam vs. Ochoa at almost every stop.
    Tuesday we learned it was the beginning of the end of a career that was just beginning to resurrect. Or is it the end?
    Ive never really used the R word, Annika said, referring to retire.
    The hope here is that circumstances will conspire, for the right reasons, to bring Sorenstam back into golfs competitive orbit. Maybe even as early as 2010.
    The bigger hope here is that Annika Sorenstam, a person impossible to dislike, will be happy no matter what happens.
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    Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham

    By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:19 pm

    Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.

    Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.

    Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.

    Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.

    Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.

    "Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."

    Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

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    Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away

    By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

    Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.

    Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

    According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.

    "So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"

    But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.

    "I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”

    Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.

    "He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."

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    Highlights: Snedeker's closing blitz to 59

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    Brandt Snedeker's first round at the Wyndham Championship began with a bogey and ended with a birdie for an 11-under 59.

    Snedeker made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes and then raced home in 27 strokes to become the ninth different player in PGA Tour history to break the 60 barrier.

    A very good round turned historic beginning when he holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2 at the par-4 sixth. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.

    With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.

    Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 6-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.

    Still, 59 was on the table and he needed this 20-foot putt to shoot it.

    At 11 under par, Snedeker led the tournament by five strokes.

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    Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

    By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

    Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

    There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have all but been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

    But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, the conversation comes down to the two athletes that hugged it out after finishing 1-2 at Bellerive.

    What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

    “There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”

    The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

    His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

    Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio, Marc Wahl, relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

    Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

    Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

    As miraculous as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

    Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

    Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

    A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

    Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

    There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

    Don’t call it a comeback
    I’ve been here for years
    I’m rocking my peers

    Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”