The Drive For Five
The dam that has contained so many records for so long has sprung
a leak. In the midst of Tiger Woods's four-major winning streak,
Annika Sorenstam has also been making history on a grand scale.
The 30-year-old Swede's fourth straight victory, last week in Los
Angeles at the Office Depot, tied the LPGA record held by Mickey
Wright and Kathy Whitworth for consecutive tournaments won.
Sorenstam overcame a 10-shot deficit in the final round in
L.A.--another record. With a 66 capped by a birdie on the last
hole of regulation, she passed a faltering Pat Hurst to qualify
for a playoff with Mi Hyun Kim, then won with a par on the first
hole. The victory, Sorenstam's 27th, also pushed her past Betsy
King to the top of the LPGA's alltime money list, with
Sorenstam's streak stands as the greatest stretch of golf ever
played by a woman. After opening the season with two runner-up
finishes, she won her first tournament of the year on March 11 in
Tucson. The next week in Phoenix she became the first woman to
shoot a 59 and went on to shatter the LPGA's 72-hole scoring
record, going 27 under. Then at the Nabisco Championship,
Sorenstam won the third major of her career. After the tour's
two-week spring break, Sorenstam pulled off her miracle in L.A.
"I'll never forget the 59, and I'll never forget today, either,"
she said last Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.
The dramatic win completed Sorenstam's Mongolian reversal on the
LPGA's former No. 1 player, Karrie Webb, who won 13 times in 1999
and '00 but is winless this year. Says Sorenstam, "I watched her
win majors, win the money list, and I realized again that that's
what I wanted to do. I hate to lose. So she's pushed me,
Besides leading the tour in scoring average and in greens hit in
regulation, Sorenstam has picked up 12 yards in driving distance
this year, averaging 255. She has benefited, too, from an
improved relationship with her younger sister, Charlotta, 28. A
rift between the two developed over Charlotta's relationship with
her longtime caddie, Robert Klasson, whom Charlotta married in
December 1998. When Charlotta and Klasson separated earlier this
year, the sisters grew closer.
Left in Sorenstam's wake is Webb, who did not play in L.A. and
won't return until May. "If I know Karrie, she's home practicing
right now," says Sorenstam. "She's not going to give me a break."
Their next major battlefield will be at the May 31-June 3 U.S.
Women's Open in Southern Pines, N.C. Sorenstam has won the Open
twice, but Webb is the defending champ.
Sorenstam will be in Sacramento this week going for five
straight, which would tie Nancy Lopez's record, set in 1978, for
the longest winning streak in women's golf. (Lopez did not win
consecutively scheduled tournaments.) Sorenstam says her
ultimate goal is Wright's record of 13 victories in a season:
"I've got a lot of events left. I want to continue. I don't want
to ruin this."
She shouldn't worry--there's nothing to ruin, only more records to
Green Fee: $100K
The Toughest Ticket in Golf
Tucked in the River Mountains above Boulder City, 30 minutes
southeast of Las Vegas, lies Cascata, the best-kept secret in
golf. So exclusive that it has no members, Cascata, a course
designed by Rees Jones and built for a rumored $52 million, is
the exclusive domain of the high rollers who stay at Caesars
Palace and the other Vegas casinos owned by Park Place
Entertainment, a publicly traded gaming company based in New
Cascata opened in November without a single press release, and
the club's phone number is unlisted. Even the usually
media-friendly Jones was, at first, tight-lipped. "The club is
being very private about this," he said. "I don't know if I'm
supposed to talk to you. I'm probably in trouble already." After
calling Park Place and getting the O.K., Jones gushed over
Cascata. "It's the eighth wonder of the golf world that they
considered building a course on that site," he said. "We made our
own soil, blasted rock, created streams--it was a phenomenal
undertaking. I can tell you everything, but the course will
exceed what I tell you."
We tried to see for ourselves. Pulling off Highway 93 a half mile
west of Boulder City, we turned left past a PRIVATE: DO NOT ENTER
sign and eventually came to a gate that appeared as if it could
hold the desert at bay. Talking into a speaker on the gate, we
asked if we could have a look around. "Sorry, no," a voice said.
Back at Caesars, we asked a senior credit executive what it would
take to get a tee time at Cascata. "A high criteria," he
answered. We asked if he could be more specific.
He suggested that a casino line of credit for, say, $25,000
might do it, although $100,000 would ensure a starting time. He
was kind enough to add that I should only gamble at a level with
which I was comfortable. "Why blow $25,000 for a round of golf?"
COLOR PHOTO: KIM D. JOHNSON/AP Already the LPGA's most accurate player, Sorenstam is 12 yards longer this year.
COLOR PHOTO: GREG CAVA For big spenders only, Cascata has replaced Shadow Creek as the most exclusive club in Las Vegas.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO
COLOR PHOTO: RICH CLARKSON
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON
Making a big deal out of the fact that an American hasn't won on
the LPGA tour this season is silly. First, Annika Sorenstam has
four victories in the nine events played so far. Second, the LPGA
went global a long time ago, and the tour is going to become only
more diverse. Xenophobes can take solace in this: The U.S.
remains the place where the best prospects, regardless of their
nationality, come to build their games. Can you say Wongluekiet?
What do these players have in common?
They shot the three lowest 72-hole scores in major championship
history. Nicklaus had a 261 at the '90 Senior Players, Tewell a
265 at last week's Tradition, and Morgan a 266 at the '97
Will Tiger Woods win all four of this year's majors?
--Based on 7,064 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who is having the better season? Annika Sorenstam
with four straight wins, including the Nabisco Championship, or
Tiger Woods with three straight, including the Masters? Vote at
Tiger Woods is the only player to have made the cut in every
major since 1997. His worst finish was a 29th at the '97 PGA.
Here are the top performers, in relation to par, in the four
majors during each year of the Woods era.
2000 Wins Vs. Par
1. Tiger Woods 3 -53
2. Ernie Els 0 -18
1. Tiger Woods 1 +1
2. C. Montgomerie 0 +15
1. Mark O'Meara 2 E
2. Tiger Woods 0 +7
1. Justin Leonard 1 -11
2. Davis Love III 1 -10
We asked six icons of coaching: "What makes Tiger Woods great?"
Tiger's main attribute is his dedication. He has blocked out
everything except what he has to do. He's in such a tough
position. For every 100 autographs you sign, the one you don't
sign, you're a jerk. He'd be better off not signing any. People
say, "Hey, you'll be sorry when they don't ask for your
autograph." That's a load of crap. If that day ever comes, he'll
relish it. I got a thrill meeting Tiger. I said, "Tiger, I want
to congratulate you not just for what you've done, but also for
the way you've conducted yourself." He looked at me and said,
"Coach, it's my honor to meet you."
He has made himself better by making himself stronger, that's
what impresses me the most. He's willing to work harder than his
competitors. Add that to his natural ability, and you've got a
combination that's hard to beat. I try to get people to be aware
of the positive things around them, and one of the most positive
in our world today is Tiger Woods--his work habits, the way he
influences young people and the way he handles himself.
I'm impressed with how quickly he grew up. He was immature at
first, but he figured it out: You're a professional now; this is
the way you act. When he first came out, he was a little too
flamboyant. He knows now that other people in his group maybe
aren't doing as well. You can kill them, but kill them with
courtesy. His talent is the kind that comes along once in a
lifetime. God makes those choices, and he selected Tiger. You
couldn't practice enough, play enough or study enough to be that
good. It's impossible. Ted Williams was impossible. Michael
Jordan was impossible. Tiger Woods is impossible.
His work habits and focus are exceptional. Work habits develop
the fundamentals that are so necessary, and his focus allows him
to put other things out of his mind so he can concentrate on the
job at hand. At the Masters, I was astounded when he stopped his
swing right at the top on the 15th tee. Not many can do that. He
has everything in the physical area, but his real advantage is
above the shoulders, where all the great ones excel.
For a young guy to be that cool, that steady, is amazing. I'm
not a golfer, but I can see how fluid he is physically.
Mentally, he's unshakable, the way I'd like all my fighters to
be. Situations do not overwhelm him. He doesn't blow his stack;
he evaluates and takes care of the situation. I love the way he
carries himself. He does this thing that I try to get my
fighters to do--smile. Reminds me of Muhammad Ali, the way he
carries himself. Muhammad was a pied piper. Tiger's a pied piper.
Tiger knows what he's doing biomechanically, and not many
athletes really do. Carl Lewis was that way when I coached him.
Most know what feels right when they're going good, but when
they're not going good, they don't know what's gone wrong. If
you want to be consistent at a sport, you have to understand
technique, the things Isaac Newton taught us, in detail. Carl
understood technique and could make a change from one race to
another, from one jump to another, under extreme pressure. Tiger
is like that as well. He can duplicate under pressure what he
does in practice.