Annika the Great Back in Action

By Lpga Tour MediaFebruary 13, 2008, 5:00 pm
2006 SBS OpenKAHUKU, Hawaii -- Annika Sorenstam has lofty goals after her worst season in years.
 
The world's former No. 1 player failed to hoist a trophy last year for the first time since her rookie season in 1994. Her scoring average of 71.27 was the highest and her earnings ($532,718) was the lowest since she was a rookie.
 
So her goals this year?
 
'I'd like to win the money list. I'd like to win tournaments. I want to go back to the top,' Sorenstam said.
 
The Hall of Famer's quest to regain dominance in a sport that is quickly being taken over by younger stars such as Lorena Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen and Paula Creamer begins Thursday at the LPGA Tour's season-opening SBS Open.
 
'It is tough out here. There's no doubt about it,' she said. 'I'm just looking forward to playing my own game. I haven't good golf for quite some time so that's really my goal, to play 'Annika golf.''
 
The 37-year-old Swede is playing at Turtle Bay for the first time and beginning her season a month earlier than usual. In the past, Sorenstam usually took a skiing trip to unwind and relax before returning full time to the tour.
 
'But now I feel like I didn't play as much last year and that I really didn't need a long break,' she said. 'I'm happy to be back.'
 
Sorenstam was limited to 13 events last year because of neck and back injuries. She had six top-10s finishes, including a playoff loss to Meaghan Francella in the MasterCard Classic in Mexico.
 
Sorenstam plans to play a full schedule of 20 to 22 tournaments this year.
 
'No more kinks,' she said. 'I feel great. I've had a good two months off where I've just been working out a lot, working on my game.'
 
The 69-time LPGA Tour winner has enjoyed success in the Aloha State.
 
Sorenstam won the last time she played here in the 2002 LPGA Takefuji Classic at Waikoloa. At the event, a 12-year-old girl named Michelle Wie made her LPGA Tour debut through a qualifier.
 
Wie, who tied for second at Turtle Bay in 2005, will open the season next week in the Fields Open at Ko Olina.
 
Sorenstam finished second in the Takefuji in 2000 and 2001 when it was played at Kona Country Club and had four top-five finishes in the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open. She also won a couple of University of Hawaii tournaments when she starred at the University of Arizona.
 
Now, it's Ochoa who is missing.
 
Ochoa, an eight-time winner last year, is skipping the Hawaii swing and will start her season at the HSBC Women's Champions, a new tournament in Singapore.
 
Creamer won the SBS last year for her first victory since 2005, holing a long birdie putt on the 17th hole to beat Julieta Granada by a stroke. Creamer also won the Tournament of Champions in November.
 
Creamer, who finished third on the money list, said the Turtle Bay win helped with her confidence for the rest of the season and immediately helped relieve the burden of winning, which she failed to do in 2006.
 
'I'm just going out this year with the same mind-set, trying to win every tournament and let's see what happens,' she said.
 
Pettersen is hoping to continue her success after a breakout season last year when she won five times, including the LPGA Championship. She finished second to Ochoa on the money list with more than $1.8 million, nearly doubling her career earnings.
 
'I just tried to make the game as simple as I could,' Pettersen said. 'When you win once, you get confidence. And then twice, you get more confidence. Then you feel like you can do whatever you want.'
 
Pettersen said she doesn't feel pressure to repeat her performance. But she does have her sights on moving up a spot to No. 1.
 
'My big dream is to be the best golfer in the world,' she said. 'But there's one ahead of me who's very good and lots of other great players.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - SBS Open at Turtle Bay
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

    @radiosarks on Twitter

    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

    Getty Images

    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

     

    Getty Images

    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.