Sorenstam, young talent stories of '05
The LPGA has lived more than a half century in the shadow of the men's tour, but in 2005 the women created more than their fair share of headlines and concluded the season with every reason to believe even better days are ahead.
With Carolyn Bivens replacing Ty Votaw as commissioner, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie providing young blood and bold changes made to the season-ending championship in 2006, the LPGA made news. And in Annika Sorenstam, the tour has a player who has completed the most dominating five-year stretch (43 wins, seven majors since 2001) in more than 40 years (Mickey Wright, 49 wins and eight majors from 1960-64). Here are 18 things to remember from the 2005 LPGA season:
When a player starts her season declaring the Grand Slam as her goal, it is easy to underestimate a year in which she won 10 LPGA events, two major championships and one more on the Ladies European Tour. Like Tiger Woods, Sorenstam at her best has no rival.
She won in her ninth start as a professional and finished the year with two LPGA victories and two more wins in Japan. She also finished second four times in a debut year that ranks with those of Nancy Lopez (1978), Juli Inkster (1984), Karrie Webb (1996) and Se Ri Pak (1998) as one of the best ever.
Record crowds packed Crooked Stick GC, and the atmosphere felt like a college football game, proving the event continues to grow in stature. The American upstarts -- Creamer, Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis -- re-energized the U.S. side, which had suffered a lopsided defeat in Sweden in 2003, and veterans Inkster and Meg Mallon won huge Sunday points to spark the victory.
Kim's hole-out from a green-side bunker on the final hole of the U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills GC. She hit it thin, and if it had missed the flagstick it may have gone off the green, but the fact is her gritty sand shot won her the major.
She came into Bighorn GC for her first professional tournament on the week of her 16th birthday with all the attention, and left the same way when she was disqualified for taking a bad drop. Like Tiger, Wie makes news even in defeat.
Determined to shed the Anna Kournikova comparisons, Gulbis made significant progress toward breaking through as a winner on tour. She had 11 top-10 finishes, and her $1,010,154 in earnings were more than she made in her first three years on tour combined. She's no longer just another pretty face.
She won her first start of the year, then withdrew nine times because of a wrist injury.
The new commissioner's marketing background could be just what the suddenly talent-flush tour needs.
Appreciation of his accomplishments will grow over time. He'll work in golf again, possibly for the PGA Tour.
An outdoor terrace with a view of the French Alps.
Players stayed here during the Weetabix Women's British Open. References to their accommodations were quickly shortened to "POW," an acronym almost equal to the amenities.
The Golf Channel's "Big Break III" winner stole the show at the Michelob Ultra Open. But after questions surfaced about her age and revealing photos of her that appeared on the Internet, she withdrew abruptly from the Corning Classic and was never seen again.
The 17-year-old made seven cuts in seven events and came within two shots of winning the U.S. Women's Open.
Wie turned pro and got all the attention, but Sorenstam won by eight in her best performance since the McDonald's LPGA Championship four months earlier.
For the first time in her career, Kerr won with Sorenstam in the field -- and stopped the Swede's quest for a record sixth consecutive victory.
With six birdies in her last seven holes, Ochoa wiped out a two-shot deficit to Creamer entering the final round.
As it turned out, all Ochoa needed on the final hole was a bogey to tie Kim at the U.S. Women's Open. Instead she hit about a foot behind her tee shot and pulled it into the pond, missing land by 30 yards and making a quadruple bogey. Runner-up: Ochoa at the Safeway International in March, where she blew a four-shot lead to Sorenstam with two holes to play and lost in sudden death.
With all the talent already on tour, potentially the best rookie class in tour history is waiting in the wings. Pressel, Brittany Lang, Ai Miyazato, Louise Stahle and Shinobu Moromizato all made it through Q School.
Ron Sirak is the executive editor of Golf World magazine. His book, Every Shot Must Have a Purpose : How GOLF54 Can Make You a Better Player, written with Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, is now available.
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