The final stretch — Thoughts from Annika Sorenstam — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Nov. 9, 2023
Happy Golf Thursday, my friends. This is my 102nd Golf Thursday, if you can believe it — and it feels extra special. Why, you may ask? Because the lovely Howard Megdal and our team of incredible storytellers are shipping me off to Naples, Florida, next week to do on-the-ground coverage of the CME Group Tour Championship.
Over the last month, there’s been a shift here at The IX. We’re expanding so that the stories that we tell reach more folks who share our love and support of women’s sports. In this expansion, we’ve integrated more social media channels, such as Instagram, TikTok, Bluesky and YouTube. Across these platforms, I will be posting and sharing my coverage of the CME Group Tour Championship in real time, in addition to writing our lovely newsletter that will still be hitting your inbox next Thursday.
With all that being said, please shoot me a message on Twitter @AddieParker__ or send me an email to email@example.com if you have questions you may want me to ask players, specific content you’d like to see or really anything at all! Receiving feedback from you all is one of the many reasons I enjoy the work we do here at The IX, so let’s stay in touch.
Now on to the meat and potatoes of today’s topic — the 2023 season is nearly over, and here’s what you need to know.
This week’s Pelican tournament is looking a bit different. The tournament began in 2020 and was known as the Pelican Women’s Championship until 2022. The fourth edition of The ANNIKA drive by Gainbridge at Pelican hosted by Pelican Country Club is the first and only namesake event on the LPGA Tour named after the GOAT Annika Sorenstam.
And with the rebrand, this week boasts one of the biggest purses on the LPGA schedule outside the majors, at $3.25 million, and an absolutely loaded field. On the men’s side, the namesake events for Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods are considered premier tournaments on the schedule. I have a feeling that “The Annika” can and will become exactly that for the women.
That’s not to say that this tournament doesn’t carry weight already. Nelly Korda’s teary-eyed post-win press conference last year speaks volumes to just how much every event means to these players, but at the end of the day, money rules everything. Having Sorenstam’s name attached to anything will bode well for the LPGA as it attracts players and fans … thus more money.
Enough business talk — on a lighter note, players and LPGA staff also got to enjoy a private concert from the Foo Fighters earlier in the week (seeing the videos on Instagram gave me major FOMO and nostalgia). A fun treat for them before the tournament begins and we’re all glued to our screens to see how things shake out this weekend.
Korda will tee it up alongside Jin Young Ko and Linn Grant. All four major champions — Lilia Vu, Allisen Corpuz, Ruoning Yin and Celine Boutier — are in the field.
As well as three very special sponsorship invitees: Gabriela Ruffels (who earned her LPGA Tour card for the 2024 season after winning three times on the Epson Tour this year), Rachel Kuehn (graduate student and star of Wake Forest, where most recently she won the 2023 East Lake Cup), and Louise Rydqvist ( a junior at the University of South Carolina and the 2023 ANNIKA Intercollegiate, which earned her a spot in the field).
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Pelican is a delicious appetizer (I haven’t had breakfast yet—can you tell?) to the season finale — the CME Group Tour Championship.
The CME field is composed of the top 60 players on the CME points list (a refresher on CME Globe points and how they work).
This week sets up who will be in the field at CME and who will take home awards next week … more on that while I’m in Naples.
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This week in women’s golf
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The DP World Tour, The R&A and the LET has shown that the biggest golf tournaments in Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) have experienced a strong surge in popularity in 2023 compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels
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Five at The IX: Annika Sorenstam talks Pelican, Augusta National, and more
Q: I read you’re a member at Augusta National. When I first came out and saw this course and walked around, I said, very rarely have I had the privilege of playing Augusta, but the conditions seemed so close. Have you had to compare them, and would you compare them?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, thank you. I mean, as you know, I’m the newest membe,r so I have very little experience, so I should ask somebody who has played Augusta a few more times than me. It looks magnificent here. I look forward to playing it tomorrow. Mike and I did drive around, and first I thought, is this artificial turf? It was so perfect. As we know, it’s not. It’s in amazing shape, and I like it around the greens. It makes it a little tricky.
Q. As you know, a lot of players have had their names on events before: Byron, Arnold had his event and Jack has the Memorial. They were all incredibly engaged. Arnold used to go out and pick hole locations. How engaged do you hope to be?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I mean, I’m going to be here all week pretty much and I’m just going to support it while I’m here. During the year we’ve done several things to talk about the tournament, enhance the tournament. I’ve spoken to players at different events, hey, you should come and play here.
So I don’t think — we haven’t really set any rules. It’s like, OK, how can we make this a good tournament? I think it’s an open conversation. But it’s one thing to talk about it. Now we’re here, and, like Dan [Doyle] said, we’re probably going to have a list on Monday. I think it looks great, but we’ll have the conversation how can we improve from a player’s perspective, a sponsor’s perspective, I mean, fan, everybody really, partners.
At the end of the day we’re here to provide an inspirational experience, so that covers everybody. I think we just want to do it right. I know that I have partners that feel the same way.
Q: You’ve talked about your name and likeness everywhere. What’s it been like now that tournament week is here? You’re speaking at the Women’s Summit, press conferences. What’s it like being the face of this tournament now that the tournament has started?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I think, again, I’m honored that they want me to be part of it. I like to do as much possible to enhance the tournament and elevate it and make it fun, a great experience, and share my passion for the game and my knowledge.
Q. You mentioned trying to do small things to elevate the event from a players’ perspective. Can you share some of the input you’ve had there?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, it starts everywhere from, I mean, parking lot, right, to locker room, to practice area, to lunch, everything that they somewhat touch. Do you have that? Sometimes it’s really small things you might not think about, like you said.
So I like to listen and learn from them. At the end of the day, we want the players to go home and say, I’m coming back and I’m bringing so-and-so with them. So it’s just small things that they see and experience.
In the past it’s been: Caddies can’t do this. Well, the caddie is a big part of a player’s team, so just listening to what can enhance that or the course. So it’s just, I think we need to listen more than we talk.
Q. One more curious question. With the level of play that’s now evident on the men’s tour, women’’ tour, you were so dominant when you were in the top of your game. Do you think it’s almost impossible for somebody to have that dominance at that level in today’s level of competition?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Didn’t feel like that when I played. Maybe sometimes it looked like it, but from a player perspective it was always cutthroat, always tough, always had to have my best game.
So it’s interesting when you look at the game, men’s side and women’s side, it kind of goes in cycles, right? Who knows what we’re going to see. You always think can somebody be better than that, and then somebody comes around and you’re like, Wow, it’s possible.
So it’s tough to tell. I do enjoy — I mean, I enjoyed when I played, winning, that was fun. I enjoyed that part.
Now when I watch, I enjoy watching the competition between several players, when it’s a little tight and come down to the last tournament for Player the Year or coming down the last hole and you have three or four players. I find that exciting.
So we’ll see. I mean, I think there is room for a dominant player. I do down the road. As of now what we see, it’s pretty tight on both tours.
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