A Jolting Occurrence for Annika
Annika Sorenstam has made a habit of punching peoples noses (figuratively, of course) for the better part of 10 years now. Remember, she has won 69 times of the LPGA Tour alone, 14 more around the world. Thats meting out an awfully lot of punishment to the golfing women of this world.
But maybe some of them have finally gotten tired of being beaten silly. A few of them have finally said enough to the unending procession of the Ice Queens 11-win, 10-win, eight-win seasons. Cristie Kerrs victory Sunday in Tulsa notified the world that she is officially tired of being kicked around, and shes going to try to do something about it.
Kerr went toe-to-toe, hand-to-hand, jawbone-to-jawbone with Annika Sunday. Annika had opened the tournament with a 64 Friday, which normally would be enough to scare the bejabbers out of any living opponent. But Kerr came back Saturday with a pretty impressive score of her own, putting up a 61 and taking a one-shot lead going into the final round.
Sunday, Sorenstam was her usual gritty, determined self on the front nine, erecting a one-shot lead that she stretched to two shots after a birdie at No. 10. But then something unusual happened, something you never see happen to a PGA TOUR player who has been passed on Sunday by Tiger Woods.
This time, Kerr got just as gritty as Sorenstam. This time, Kerr rallied with four birdies of her own on the back nine. And this time, Kerr won by two shots.
We're all becoming a lot more competitive with her, said Kerr, because we're getting better. I think people are starting to realize, Hey, you know what - we don't have to play under pressure, we don't have to give it away and give it to her just because she is the best player in the world.
Let her stand up for herself and play great golf and see what kind of a match you can make out of it. I think everybody has really gotten more competitive.
Annika wasnt about to make it easy. She hit every fairway Sunday in her attempt to win the 70th time on tour. She did nothing wrong the back nine. She was just out-putted and outplayed.
And Annika, being the classy individual that she has always been, had nothing but praise for Kerr. 'All the credit goes to Cristie,' she said. 'That (Kerr's performance) is extraordinary on a Sunday on a course that could hold a major.
'I've been saying the competition is getting tougher out there. The players are getting better. Just look at the stats.'
The PGA TOUR would do well to take notice. So many times when Tiger has suddenly reared up on the final day and bared his teeth, the opposition has shriveled. Not saying that the men have suddenly gone into hiding ' maybe they try TOO hard when Tiger is running alongside them. But whatever the reason, they dont get the job done.
And normally, its the same with Annika. But maybe Kerr and Company are getting tired of continually being the punching bags.
Kerr herself at one time was the bully of the neighborhood. As a junior player, she won everything. She chose to forego college, immediately going from high school in Miami to the LPGA.
And just like being doused with ice water, she had to learn her lesson ' its a far, far cry from being the queen of the hill in juniors to being top dog on the LPGA. And her LPGA career has been one huge picture of looking at Annika from the rear.
But while she has deep respect ' as does everyone ' for all that Sorenstam has accomplished, she says that she is not intimidated.
It's something that I've grown out of, said Kerr. I've realized the dynamic of people playing golf and all that stuff. It's been a really long time since I've been intimidated.
But that comes with age, it comes with winning tournaments, it comes with having success, it comes with believing in yourself - all those different things at once.
For the record, Sorenstam is still Sorenstam. She recorded 12 under par for the tournament last week, and that is still the best mark that has ever been posted. Oh ' except for one person ' Cristie Kerr.
I didn't make any mistakes, said Annika. When I walk away from here, I think I've got to give myself credit for that. I didn't really give away any shots. Maybe I could have made a few more, but it's all about mistakes, too, and I didn't make many.
And Kerr has been punched in the chops by Annika often enough that she no longer has any feeling. In short, she now just plays golf ' and apparently has done it fairly well.
I don't put pressure on myself to have to do this, she said. I just play golf and try to compete again.
The men of the PGA TOUR will have to finally learn this, or they will be pushed around by Tiger until he is too feeble to swing a club. The women may finally have gotten it ' at least Kerr seems to have.
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Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers
U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.
Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.
And here is the capper at the 14th
Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.
After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.
A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.
Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery
MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.
Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.
''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on jarrodlylegolf.com. ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.
''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''
Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''
Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.
He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.
Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.
Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship
SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.
The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.
The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.
Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.
Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.
McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.
David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.
Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.
Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.
Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.
While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.
“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”
Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.
“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”