Annika Sörenstam is set to return to the LPGA Tour 13 years after announcing her retirement.
The 50-year-old Hall of Famer and 10-time major winner will play in next week’s Gainbridge LPGA tournament at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Florida, where she has her home on the 16th hole.
“I’m excited to play the Gainbridge LPGA,” she said last week. “It will be my first event in 13 years. I’ve thought about it since I heard the event was coming to Lake Nona where I have lived for years. The members kept asking me to play and I figured, ‘Why not?’
“This is simply to get some competitive rounds under my belt before the US Senior (Women’s) Open later in the summer, which I hope to play if my schedule permits. It will be fun having our kids and friends in the neighbourhood there to watch.”
Sörenstam’s 72nd and last LPGA win came in the 2008 Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in Virginia.
Eighty-five amateurs have confirmed their intent to play in this year’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur, to be staged at Augusta National Golf Club and nearby Champions Retreat Golf Club the week before the Masters.
They include America’s Rose Zhang, Sweden’s Linn Grant and Ingrid Lindblad and France’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, who currently hold down the top four places on the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“On behalf of the membership at Augusta National, it is my distinct honour and privilege to welcome these talented competitors to the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur,” said Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley. “While the wait for the return of this championship has been longer than expected, the excitement generated by the sportsmanship and competitive spirit showcased in the inaugural edition still resonates with us today.”
The event features 54 holes of stroke play, with a 36-hole cut determining the 30 players who reach the final round. The first two rounds take place on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat. The entire field will play Augusta National for an official practice round Friday 2 April, with the final round staged at Augusta National on Saturday 3 April for the 30 players who make the cut.
Last year’s ANWA was cancelled due to COVID-19. Jennifer Kupcho won the inaugural 2019 tournament in a final-round showdown with Maria Fassi.
Australia’s Gabi Ruffels has decided to turn professional and will make her debut at next week’s Gainbridge LPGA event in Florida.
The 20-year-old leaves the amateur ranks at No 5 in the world following a series of standout performances including a win in the 2019 US Women’s Amateur and a runner-up spot in the same event last year.
She also finished tied 13th at the 2020 US Open and in a share of 15th place in another major, the ANA Inspiration.
“I’m excited to be turning professional,” Ruffels said. “I feel as now is a great time for me; I’m excited and ready to capitalise on my rookie year as a professional while also finishing my degree at the University of Southern California.”
Ludvig Åberg is back as Sweden’s No 1 on the men’s World Amateur Golf Ranking thanks to his Jones Cup Invitational victory.
The Texas Tech University student was briefly dethroned as top Swede when Vincent Norrman won the previous week’s Timuquana Collegiate. However, Åberg’s one-shot victory in the Jones Cup moved him seven places up the rankings to 10th, leapfrogging 12th-ranked Norrman, a student at Florida State University.
Spain’s David Puig reached his highest position on the WAGR table thanks to a four-shot victory in the Amer Ari Invitational, a second consecutive win for the Arizona State University student following a nine-shot triumph in the Southwestern Invitational. He is now the world’s 15th best amateur after moving up four places on the list. Only world No 3 Eduard Rousaud Sabate sits higher than Puig in the Spanish pecking order.
The men’s ranking is headed by Japan’s Keita Nakajima, with his compatriot Ren Yonezawa in ninth place on the list. Scotland’s Sandy Scott is GB&I’s top-ranked player in sixth place.
South Africa’s Jarvis, who recently featured in Global Golf Post, broke into the top 50 for the first time with his four-ranking rise to 49th place. And Martin Vorster advanced four positions to a career high 25th.
Karen Fredgaard is now Denmark’s second-best amateur thanks to victory in the UCF Challenge. The victory takes the University of Houston student 56 places up the ranking to 65th, two places behind Danish No 1 Amalie Leth-Nissen.
The Challenge Tour in Europe has confirmed that the Hopps Open de Provence is returning to the schedule. However, the Hauts de France - Pas de Calais Golf Open has been cancelled.
The Hopps Open wasn’t on the original 25-tournament schedule announced last month. It was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 after two years on the European Tour’s junior circuit. It is slated for 16-19 September at Golf International de Pont Royal, Mallemort. Former Amateur champion Romain Langasque won the inaugural 2018 tournament, with Lars van Meijel of the Netherlands winning in 2019.
While the Hauts de France - Pas de Calais Golf Open has dropped off the schedule, Challenge Tour players will make three visits to France this season.
“The Challenge Tour has a long and storied history of holding events in France and I must thank the Hopps Group, Golf International de Pont Royal and the Fédération Française de Golf for their commitment, and help in bringing this tournament to fruition and for their ongoing support of our tour,” Challenge Tour head Jamie Hodges said.
The International Management Group is no longer in partnership with the European Tour in European Golf Design Limited after selling its 50-percent share in the company.
IMG had been an equal partner in the enterprise since the joint venture was announced in 1992. However, the management company has sold its share to the two-man syndicate of European Tour chief operating officer Keith Waters and businessman Robert Birmingham.
The syndicate and the European Tour will now work together to develop the business.
EGD features 2010 Ryder Cup venue Celtic Manor Resort in its portfolio. Another EGD course, Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, on the outskirts of Rome, is scheduled to host the 2023 match.
Three EGD courses – the Stadium Course at PGA Catalunya, the Montgomerie Links at Carton House Golf Club and the Faldo Berlin at A-Rosa Resort – have been voted among the best new courses in Europe by Golf World magazine, while Dubai Hills in the United Arab Emirates earned the accolade of “The World’s Best New Course” at the World Golf Awards in 2019.
“We plan to design more courses for regular and tournament play, and work with tour players who have the desire and opportunity to design golf courses themselves,” said Waters, who will continue in his role as chief operating officer.
European Tour chief executive officer Keith Pelley said: “Keith’s golfing knowledge and Robert’s business acumen will undoubtedly bring a new perspective and energy to EGD, and they are aligned with our rationalisation of the group businesses. We look forward to seeing what this new partnership can deliver.”
European Tour members can look forward to a Kenyan doubleheader following the announcement of a new €1 million Kenya Savannah Classic, to be played at Karen Country Club in Nairobi on 23-26 March.
It follows hard on the heels of the Magical Kenya Open, at the same venue, on 18-21 March. Both tournaments will be played under the auspices of the European Tour’s health strategy, which will be aligned to Kenyan government guidance.
Pelley said: “The addition of the Kenya Savannah Classic offers vital playing opportunities for our members, while having two consecutive tournaments at Karen Country Club follows our strategy of playing in geographical clusters to reduce travelling as much as possible.”
The Kenya Savannah Classic will be the 16th new event created by the European Tour since its resumption of play last July following the three-month suspension caused by COVID-19.
Rolex has been announced as a worldwide partner of the Ryder Cup.
“Rolex’s commitment to golf as a whole is unparalleled, and this is therefore a truly momentous day both for the Ryder Cup and our sport as a whole,” said Guy Kinnings, deputy chief executive for the European Tour and Ryder Cup director.
Additionally, Loro Piana, New Era, PRG and Titleist have been announced as official suppliers to the European team for the next three editions of the Ryder Cup, starting with this year’s contest at Whistling Straits.
Colin Callander and Alistair Tait