SAN DIEGO (AP) — Annika Sorenstam will play in her final U.S. Women’s Open next week at Interlachen, but her involvement with the U.S. Golf Association won’t end there. The three-time champion will become a USGA ambassador, involved in the Rules of Golf and with programs to grow the game.
“Annika has earned a rare place in golf’s history, and we are very privileged to bring her aboard the USGA,” president Jim Vernon said.
Sorenstam made a brief appearance at Torrey Pines, coming to the U.S. Open for corporate work with Lexus. She will be hard to miss at Interlachen, even for those who don’t attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
Her first round will be streamed live on the tournament’s web site (www.uswomensopen.com), the first time that has happened in women’s golf. Fans on the Internet will be able to see every shot from Sorenstam and her two other playing partners (Paula Creamer is expected to be one of them) during the first round.
Live streaming in the second round will focus on the traditional pairing of defending champion Cristie Kerr, Women’s British Open champion Lorena Ochoa and U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Maria Uribe.
Sorenstam’s first LPGA Tour victory came in the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open at the Broadmoor, and she added titles in 1996 at Pine Needles and 2006 at Newport Country Club. A victory next week would allow Sorenstam to join Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls as the only four-time champions.
The 37-year-old Swede is retiring after this year and looking forward to her work with the USGA. Sorenstam long has been a whiz with the rules, one of the few players on any tour who has attended the USGA rules seminars.
“It is the opportunity to help grow the game, especially among junior golfers, that I think is most exciting for me,” Sorenstam said. “Golf has always been a very important part of my life, and I see this as a great opportunity to give something back to the game that has given me so much.”
TIGER STATUS: If he skips his next two tournaments because of a sore left knee, Tiger Woods almost certainly will not play in the minimum 15 events. That would not affect his PGA Tour membership, only his voting membership.
Most players who fall short of the 15 events can apply for a medical extension, but Woods doesn’t need one. He now is exempt on tour through 2013, and once he puts in two more years, will be exempt for life with 65 victories.
But there might even be a loophole for his voting membership.
“What the regulation doesn’t address – but the spirit of the regulation addresses – is here’s a guy who doesn’t need a medical extension,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s vice president of competition. “You would say the spirit is to extend a person’s voting membership due to a period he missed because of injury.”
As for the Ryder Cup?
According to the PGA of America, the ninth player in the U.S. standings through the PGA Championship would qualify for the team if Woods decides he cannot play. By winning the U.S. Open, Woods mathematically clinched a spot on the team.
SCHEDULE CHANGE: The merchandise tent and corporate chalets were on the first fairway of the North Course at Torrey Pines. The media center was on the second fairway, the practice range occupying the fourth, first, ninth and 18th holes.
The good news is that it will have a few extra weeks to get back in shape for two rounds of the Buick Invitational.
Because the 2009 season does not start in Kapalua until Jan. 8, and the Super Bowl is held Feb. 1, there have been some changes to the West Coast swing next year.
The Buick Invitational, played the last week in January the last four years, will be held Feb. 5-8, the week after the Super Bowl. That spot usually is occupied by the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which will be held a week later.
SHARP EYE: Yani Tseng earned $300,000 for her victory two weeks ago in the McDonald’s LPGA Championship, making her the first rookie in 10 years to win an LPGA major. She is fourth on the list with $835,241.
What to do with her earnings? For starters, she wants to buy a billiards table.
Tseng is quite accomplished with the cue stick, and some say she can run the table on just about anyone.
“I’m pretty good,” she said during the first round of the U.S. Open, when she followed the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson-Adam Scott group. “Helps me with my putting. You have to be able to read the angles on the shots.”
Whatever she’s doing, it appears to be working.
BACK IN THE BOOTH: Curtis Strange looked as comfortable as ever in the broadcast booth at the U.S. Open, where he spent 2 1/2 hours each of the first two rounds on ESPN with Mike Tirico. They were the ABC tandem for eight years through 2004.
He also joined Peter Jacobsen with NBC Sports’ Bob Costas for brief observations on the weekend.
“It was a lot of fun,” Strange said. “I’d love for it to work into a couple more events.”
ESPN also televises Friday of the Ryder Cup, and Strange was the U.S. captain in 2002 at The Belfry. Strange said he felt at home analyzing the U.S. Open as the last player to win back-to-back years (1988-89) and the only player to break par in a U.S. Open for three consecutive years.
As for his golf on the Champions Tour?
“I still want to play,” he said. “But I don’t want to play like I’ve been playing.”
Strange has yet to win since turning 50 in 2004 and is 46th on the money list in 10 starts this year.
DIVOTS: U.S. Open officials said its web site served more than 2.5 million streams during the Monday playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate, the most of any single sporting event. … Vicky Hurst failed to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, but the 17-year-old from Florida picked up her second Futures Tour victory last week in Illinois. She is leading the money list after six events. The top five earn LPGA Tour cards. … Justin Leonard didn’t make a birdie the first two rounds of the U.S. Open and still made the cut. He tied for 36th. Davis Love III did not make a birdie on the weekend and slipped from a tie for fifth to a tie for 53rd.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Robert Karlsson and Miguel Angel Jimenez are the only players to have finished in the top 10 in both majors this year.
FINAL WORD: “If anybody in this world goes up against Tiger when he’s at his best, they’re going to lose. It’s just that simple.” – Rocco Mediate, after losing in 19 holes of a playoff at the U.S. Open.