Backspin: Annika serves notice in Hawaii
It's on, again. Annika Sorenstam's two-shot win at the LPGA's season-opening SBS Open (10-under 206) reawakened a great rivalry. Yeah, sure, the one between Sorenstam's old guard and Lorena Ochoa's new wave is good, but the more interesting one might be the friendly competition between Sorenstam and Tiger Woods, who've been known to needle each other through text messages after victories.
The scoreboard: Woods has 13 majors and 62 W's, tying him for fourth on his tour's list, while Sorenstam has 10 majors and 70 overall, good for third alltime on her tour. Who'll wind up with the better record? Both players look great out of the gate, but Woods (32) is five years younger, and Sorenstam showed some signs of wear last year when she went winless in only 13 starts while dealing with a neck injury. Still, Sorenstam postponed her wedding until next spring so she could concentrate on her game, and it looks as if that dedication is paying off. The final tally is anyone's guess, which is what makes it interesting.
No doubt Paul Azinger will have kept an eye on the scheduled Woods-J.B. Holmes first-round tilt at the Match Play. Not because he's into long-drive competitions, but because as Ryder Cup captain, he surely wants to have a careful look at Holmes, who already took down Phil Mickelson in a playoff at the FBR Open.
Although Holmes is sixth in Ryder Cup points, beating Woods head-to-head would be a striking addition to Holmes's Cup resume. In L.A. he made the case for himself. "The Match Play is how the Ryder Cup is," Holmes said. "I probably won't [hit it] that far ahead of Tiger, but in most situations, if I've got wedge in my hand and people are back there hitting seven-irons, they're going to feel like they've got to shoot at the pin. I feel it makes them put more pressure on themselves."
The big-hitting Holmes had been scheduled for a rematch with Mickelson in the first round until Ernie Els decided to enter the tournament. The move bumped Anthony Kim from the field and nudged Holmes from the 63rd seed to 64th. It will be the first time Woods and Holmes have been paired. "It'll be a great test," Holmes said. "If you want to win, you've got to play the best."
The 72 players who drew the windswept Thursday-morning/ Friday-afternoon tee times in L.A. paid the price. Their average score was more than five strokes higher than the Thursday-afternoon/Friday-morning groupings, and 51 of them missed the cut. Ryuji Imada fared the best of the lot, tying for fifth.
Scott Hoch is becoming the Champions tour's biggest two-timer, winning for the second week in a row by birdieing the final two holes. On Sunday he birdied the 54th to get into a four-way playoff (14-under 202) at the Ace Group Classic, then birdied the first playoff hole to take the big cardboard check worth $240,000.
Gary Player, 72, bested his age in competition for the eighth time by shooting a 70 in the final round.