Annika the Best but Not Invincible

By Mercer BaggsJuly 26, 2004, 4:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam is vincible. Its actually a word. I looked it up. It means exactly what you think it would mean: the opposite of invincible.
 
Sorenstam held a three-stroke lead entering the final round of this past weeks Evian Masters in Evian-les-Baines, France. And, for some reason, the rest of the field still decided to wake up and play 18 holes Saturday, the final day of the tournament, instead of hopping on a plane and getting a jump on the upcoming Womens British Open in England.
 
And, you know what? Annika lost. To Wendy Doolan. Thats unpossible! (OK, thats not a word.) But what was thought to be impossible was just improbable, and in the end quite possible.
 
Sorenstam is the most fearful figure on any respective tour. Tiger Woods owned that title of intimidation until recently. But players no longer shriek and shrivel when Woods name nears the top of the leaderboard.
 
That was obvious earlier this year when Woods held the outright 36-hole lead in back-to-back weeks, at the Wachovia Championship and EDS Byron Nelson Championship, and failed to win either.
 
Time and again, Woods has won by simply being the front-runner. He's posted mediocre scores and not been tackled from behind because others were afraid to get close to him.
 
But no one backed down from Woods at the Wachovia ' even though they were well aware that he had won 18 consecutive PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the midway lead.
 
This time, he wasn't able to get away with mediocrity.
 
And after seeing him finally fail to close, it had to be a little easier to stare him down in Dallas the following weekend.
 
Yet despite Tigers failures this season, he has yet to blow a 54-hole lead. Yet. That may be because he has yet to hold a 54-hole lead this season. And if he were to do that ' stumble as a pacesetter on Sunday, that would surely be the surest sign that Superman has entered his Fortress of Solitude and become mortal ' that Tiger, too, is vincible.
 
Woods has had some quite memorable and dramatic come-from-behind performances in his career ' just ask Steve Scott or Matt Gogel. But he became golfs Intimidator by consistently, opportunity after opportunity sealing the deal on Sunday. Thirty-two times on the PGA Tour he has held at least a share of the lead entering the final round; 30 times he has won.
 
Sorenstam, on the other hand, isnt as surefire a bet to finish what she started.
 
She has 55 times (according to golfstats.com) taken at least a share of the lead into the final round on the LPGA Tour and 34 times come out victorious.
 
Fifty-five times?!? Thats a staggering amount, but you have to consider this includes 18 times when she held the lead heading into the final round in a 54-hole event and 37 times when she did the same in a 72-hole event.
 
The key to finishing ahead of the Mighty Annika, when shes nearing the summit, ready to plant her flag, is to extend the race to the top.
 
At least thats the story the statistics tell.
 
You might think that the longer the event ' 72 holes as opposed to 54 holes, the greater the advantage it would be to Annika. After all, there is less likelihood for an upset with an additional 18 holes tacked on at the end.
 
But Sorenstam seems to fare better in the 800 meters than in the mile.
 
She has won 12 of the last 13 ' and eight straight ' when holding at least of share of the lead heading into the final round of a 54-hole tournament. For her career, she is 13-for-18 in converting such leads into victory.
 
By contrast, she has won only six of the last 13 tournaments when taking at least a share of the lead into the final round of a 72-hole event. She is 21-for-37 under this scenario.
 
What does it all say? Well, it says that Annika has put herself in position to win an unbelievable amount of times. It says that 34 of her 52 career LPGA Tour victories have come when setting the final-round pace. That means she has 18 come-from-behind victories on the LPGA Tour. Woods, by comparison, has 38 career stroke-play victories (and two Match Play titles) on the PGA Tour, and only eight have been by way of comeback.
 
It says that you should be fearful of Annika when she lurks behind you, and hopeful when shes ahead.
 
And it says that, amazingly, she could have many more titles to her credit.
 
Yes, Annika Sorenstam is better ' and more intimidating to her peers ' than anyone on any tour. But she is vincible, as well.
 
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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.