Annika Puts Up Another Amazing Season

By Golf Channel NewsroomNovember 23, 2004, 5:00 pm
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The biggest challenge for Annika Sorenstam is setting goals.
She already is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, inducted a year ago at the ripe old age of 33. She completed the career Grand Slam last year by winning the Women's British Open. She won for the 50th time on the LPGA in April. She would like to win three more majors to give her 10, but only because that sounds like a nice number.
'Because I have come so far in my career, (there's) nothing that is still out there,' Sorenstam said.
Maybe she's not looking far enough.
Two years ago, when she won 11 times on the LPGA Tour, Sorenstam said she wasn't interested in chasing Kathy Whitworth's career record of 88 victories. At the time, she wasn't even halfway there.
But when Sorenstam ended another amazing season Sunday ' eight wins despite playing only 18 times on the LPGA Tour ' she had 56 career victories and was No. 5 on the list.
'I never thought 88 was possible, and I'm still so far away from it,' she said. 'I just wonder if I can continue on this pace. If I don't continue on this pace, there's no way. If it does happen, obviously that would be just be incredible.'
The Swede repeated that 88 wins is not among her goals ' yet.
'Maybe if I reach 75,' she said. 'But then you've still got another 13, and that could take five years. I don't know. It really sounds so impossible. I guess you should never say 'never.''
The record still seems out of reach, but much more reasonable considering her dominance of women's golf.
When she captured the ADT Championship in a playoff at Trump International, it gave Sorenstam 33 victories over the last four years ' more than Hall of Famers Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster have won in their careers.
'I don't think people realize how hard it is to do what Annika has done,' Cristie Kerr said.
Two more years like that, and Sorenstam might find herself closer to Whitworth than she ever dreamed.
Much of that depends on her desire and motivation, neither of which appears to be waning. Another factor could be her competition. Se Ri Pak and Grace Park have made some headway, and Meg Mallon might have found a second wind by capturing the Women's Open. Still, there doesn't seem to be a Vijay Singh on the horizon.
'I hope he's not coming,' Sorenstam said, joking.
Tiger Woods won 32 times over five years, including four majors in a row, and looked unstoppable. Singh predicted that great run would end early in the 2003 season, then spent the next two years tracking him down until he supplanted Woods at No. 1 in the world.
No one works harder than Sorenstam. No one produces better under pressure.
She was third in driving distance, and led the LPGA Tour by hitting 79 percent of her greens in regulation. Her average score was 68.70, which was a massive 1.29 strokes ahead of Grace Park. The only reason Sorenstam didn't win the Vare Trophy was because she didn't play the minimum 70 rounds.
How long can this last?
'I try not to think about when will my streak end,' Sorenstam said. 'I try to look forward, not backward. There are still parts of my game that can improve. If I can still work and get better, I don't see a reason why it should end. If I get an injury or if my motivation disappears or if I'm not getting better ... then yes, it probably will.'
The greatness of Sorenstam is that even the spectacular years look routine. She had a hard time finding a signature moment in 2004, a year in which she had five more wins and $1 million more in prize money than anyone else.
'It's going to rank up there. Maybe not the best year,' she said. 'This year is great because I didn't play as much, but I was still able to be up there.'
None of her peers was surprised. Kerr had a breakout year with three victories. Mallon captured the biggest prize in women's golf among her three wins. Both their years were not even close to Sorenstam's success.
'Everyone's talking about Vijay's year,' Mallon said, referring to Singh's nine victories on the PGA Tour. 'She's done it for the last six years. My years on tour, I've seen great players, and Annika is one of them. Those great players always go through a down time. She hasn't done that.
'I just think Annika is enjoying herself more now the last couple of years,' Mallon said. 'I see her playing maybe a little longer than what she thinks she might.'
Sorenstam's only mission in 2004 was to become the first player, male or female, to win all four professional majors in the same season. That fell apart when she shot 76 in the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship and wound up in a tie for 13th, matching her worst finish of the year.
With nothing else on the agenda, she still cranked out eight victories.
What's next, Annika?
Another crack at the Grand Slam, for sure.
Sorenstam will play in the Skins Game against Woods, Fred Couples and Adam Scott this weekend in California.
Then, she will put the clubs up for about a month until she gets the itch to play and starts thinking about what she wants to accomplish.
'Who knows? After Christmas, we'll see what crazy ideas I get,' she said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”

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Day (66) only star to shine Saturday at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:01 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – With an early rain softening an already vulnerable course, there were plenty of birdies to be had during the third round of the Travelers Championship. They were few and far between, however, for some of the biggest names in the field.

On the same TPC River Highlands layout where Paul Casey took control of the tournament with an 8-under 62, the decorated quartet of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka combined to shoot 1 under with no single score better than a 1-under 69.

Spieth’s dim hopes of back-to-back titles were effectively ended with a 1-over 71, while McIlroy’s second straight 69 dropped him from three shots off the lead to outside the top 10.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Thomas (70) and Koepka (69) are now 11 and 12 shots back, respectively.

Among the top-ranked contenders, the only player to make a modicum of a move was Jason Day, who shot a 4-under 66 and heads into the final round in a tie for sixth, six shots behind Casey. The Aussie made four birdies over his first nine holes, but he stalled out on the more gettable inward half.

“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now. I played well today from tee to green,” Day said. “Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays.”

Day has won twice already this season, but facing a significant deficit against a seasoned veteran he realizes that a quick start will be necessary to retain any hopes for a third title.

“This course can yield some birdies, which is quite nice,” Day said. “Get through tomorrow in a couple under on the front side, and then try to let things go a little bit on the back side if you can.”

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Monkey off his back, Casey freed up to win again

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 10:49 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Paul Casey is flushing his irons, rolling in putts and no longer fielding questions about a lengthy victory drought. For the remaining players looking to chase him down at the Travelers Championship, it adds up to a terrifying combination.

The Englishman felt right at home on a gray and dreary afternoon at TPC River Highlands, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard with an 8-under 62. It was the lowest round of the week, two shots better than the next best effort Saturday, and it turned a two-shot deficit into a four-shot lead heading into the final round.

After enduring an afternoon logjam, with as many as five players sharing the lead at one point, the tournament is now Casey’s to lose – and he’s not shying away from the burden.

“You’d always rather have a lead,” Casey said. “When you’re behind, there is no room for error. No, I’m excited. I’ve got confidence in my game. I’ve got confidence with the man standing next to me (caddie John McLaren), confidence in the gameplan of how to get around this golf course.”

That approach is undoubtedly aided by the magic act Casey pulled off in March at the Valspar Championship. Teeing off well before the tournament leaders, he shot a final-round 65 and watched as the likes of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed were unable to match his number.

Without having to field a single question about the weight of the burden he shouldered, about ending a PGA Tour victory drought that extended back to the 2009 Houston Open, Casey launched the monkey off his back and into the trees lining the 18th fairway at Innisbrook.

While Casey has won 13 times on the European Tour, including five times from 2009-14, his dry spell on this side of the Atlantic had become a point of discussion and one that wore on the affable veteran. But one sublime round in Tampa rendered it moot, and it will also grant him an extra sense of calm heading into the final round outside Hartford where only Russell Henley will start the day within five shots of his total.

“If I hadn’t won in a while, then yeah, there would be more pressure. I sit here right now with no nerves,” Casey said. “I’m sure there will be tomorrow, but no nerves now. I’m very happy with what I’ve done. In years past maybe that wouldn’t have been the case because there hadn’t been enough wins.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Granted, this is an event that often doesn’t follow the script. Birdies will be there for the taking on a course softened by light rains, and low scores shouldn’t be hard to find. This is, after all, where Jim Furyk shot a 58 two years ago and where Kevin Streelman ended his comeback victory in 2014 with a run of seven straight birdies.

Trailing by six, Bubba Watson floated the notion of needing a 60 to catch Casey without any hint that the score is out of reach. Jason Day, who like Watson trails by six at 10 under, quickly sniffed out Casey’s long-term track record like a shark seizing on a droplet of blood.

“Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays,” Day said. “I know that he in the past hasn’t quite got over the line with some of the wins that he possibly could have won, and that’s kind of a positive in my mind knowing that.”

But the look of calm confidence that emanates from Casey is that of a man who no longer has to answer questions about when The Win will come. His next victory will be just that, the next one. Another trophy to add to the decorated credentials of a player who has re-established himself in the game’s upper echelon over the past three years.

He’s back on a course he has thrived on from the very first time he set foot on the property, losing in a playoff to Watson in 2015 in his tournament debut. He has returned each year since, finishing T-17 and T-5.

His final-round 71 in 2016, carded the same day Furyk shot his 58, is proving more and more to be an aberration since each of his other 14 competitive rounds in Cromwell have ended up in the 60s. That includes three straight this week, capped by Saturday’s effort where he hit every green in regulation and tied his career low score on Tour.

Yes, the tournament is Casey’s to lose. But liberated by a recent win and playing some of his best golf at one of his favorite venues, there’s little reason to expect him to do anything but lift the trophy he barely missed out on three years ago.

“If I go out there tomorrow and I hit it the way I normally hit it, and I putt it well,” Casey said, “then I’m fairly confident.”

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Couples one behind Toledo; Sticker struggles in Wisc.

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 9:51 pm

MADISON, Wis. – Esteban Toledo birdied four of the last six holes for a 6-under 66 and the second-round lead Saturday in the American Family Insurance Championship.

Five strokes behind tournament host Steve Stricker after an opening 69 in rain Friday at University Ridge, Toledo had six birdies in a bogey-free round to reach 9-under 135. The 55-year-old Mexican player won the last of his four PGA Tour Champions titles in 2016.

Defending champion Fred Couples (67), David Toms (66), Kent Jones (67) and Billy Mayfair (68) were a stroke back.

''I'm surprised that someone isn't 11 or 12 under, but the greens picked up a lot of pace today,'' Couples said. ''I think maybe the scoring was a little easier yesterday because we got to clean the ball in the fairways, but it's not easy out there.''

Bernhard Langer (69) was 8 under with Madison player Jerry Kelly (69), Scott McCarron (67), Mark Calcavecchia (68), Paul Goydos (68), Joey Sindelar (68), Glen Day (69) and Brad Bryant (72).

Full-field scores from the American Family Insurance Championship

''The conditions haven't been that easy,'' Kelly said. ''The pins are in some spots where you can't spin it and you have to hit them firm out of these kind of soft fairways, otherwise you could chunk it. It's not that easy even though the course is gettable. There's just a few things going on out there to keep the scoring from going too low like it normally does.''

Stricker followed his opening 64 with a 74, ending his Champions under-par streak at 30 rounds - the fourth-longest streak in tour history.

''It just was one of those days where I didn't have a lot of energy,'' Stricker said. ''Nothing - hit very few good shots, really. The couple that I did hit well, I was in bad spots, and a couple bad shots even got worse.''

He had three bogeys and a birdie - on the final hole.

''That was a big birdie in my mind,'' Stricker said. ''It kept me a little bit closer. No one ran away with this thing today and three shots back, a lot of guys in between me and the lead. It was a good putt to make and finally get a birdie. That was my only one today.''

Stricker won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. The 12-time PGA Tour winner played the big tour the last two weeks, tying for 18th in Memphis and tying for 20th in the U.S. Open.

John Daly matched Stricker at 6 under with a 70.