Aloha World Wie Turns Professional

By Associated PressOctober 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
HONOLULU -- Sitting in a hotel suite overlooking swaying palms and the rolling Pacific surf, Michelle Wie leaned forward and gazed at the newspaper. The front page was a reminder of how far she's come and the expectations that are greater than ever.
 
The Honolulu Advertiser ran four pictures of Hawaii's biggest sports sensation in the paper Wednesday. There she was at age 10 with chubby cheeks and a grown-up swing; at age 13 and 14 competing against the pros; and as a celebrity in a formal red dress at last year's Laureus Sports Awards in Portugal.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie put on a driving exhibition after making her announcement.
The headline: ``Why she's worth millions.''
 
``I don't know why,'' Wie said softly. ``But I'm going to try hard to live up to it.''
 
Already one of the most famous athletes in the world, Wie became the richest female golfer Wednesday when she stood before a crowded conference room and realized a dream a dozen years in the making.
 
``I'm finally happy to say I'm a pro starting today,'' said Wie, wearing a pink Nike shirt and high heels that made her stand even taller than 6 feet. ``The first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew I'd do it for the rest of my life. Some 12 years later, I'm finally turning pro, and I'm so excited.''
 
Wie signed endorsement deals with Nike and Sony, which will pay her as much as $10 million a year.
 
There was no Tigeresque ``Hello, World'' moment, as there was when Woods turned pro in 1996. Wie looked nervous while waiting to be introduced, flanked by her new agent, Ross Berlin of the William Morris Agency, and executives from her two sponsors.
 
``Usually at a press conference, I don't have to make a speech,'' she said. ``I don't like making speeches.''
 
Wie will be judged by her golf, and that's where the expectations lie.
 
She makes her professional debut next week in the Samsung World Championship in California. Wie also will play the week of Thanksgiving at the Casio World Open in Japan, her sixth time competing against men.
 
``I know I have to win. That's my priority right now,'' Wie said. ``Everyone expects me to do better and work hard, and I'm going to try my best.''
 
She has redefined success since winning the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at age 13, the youngest champion of a USGA title for adults. She hasn't hoisted another trophy on her own, but her amazing feats have fanned the hype over her potential.
 
She shot 68 at the Sony Open as a 14-year-old still wearing a retainer, the lowest score ever by a female competing on a men's tour. She reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links this summer, three rounds away from her long-shot bid of getting into the Masters. She twice has come within a whisker of making the cut on the PGA Tour.
 
Against the women, Wie has more than held her own.
 
She was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Annika Sorenstam, and tied for third at the Women's British Open. She has made the cut in her last 16 LPGA events dating to 2003, and would have earned about $640,870 on the LPGA Tour this year had she not been an amateur. That would have put her 13th on the money list in only seven starts.
 
``She's the whole package,'' said Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf. ``But it's all potential. It's all in front of her.''
 
The other Nike client -- Tiger Woods -- took a different route. He won three straight U.S. Amateur titles and dominated every age group until he turned pro in 1996, earning his PGA Tour card with two victories in seven stars. Then came his record-setting victory in the Masters.
 
Wie still has two years left at Punahou School, and will play only a limited schedule until she graduates. But her marketing appeal is above any other woman in golf -- a 6-footer of Korean heritage who was raised in Hawaii, has loads of charisma and power and a captivating smile to boot.
 
``What's similar in her and Tiger is they have instantaneous, worldwide appeal,'' Wood said. ``Talk to the guys in Europe. She's going to be huge there. She's just a great story. She's a great Nike story. If there's anybody that can personify 'Just Do It,' it's Michelle.''
 
Wie is not expected to join the LPGA Tour until she turns 18, although she can play up to eight of its events a year. She also will play a few times on the PGA Tour, and against men and women overseas.
 
``Michelle is a young woman with phenomenal talent who brings the promise of incredible performance and a marketability that will draw fans of all ages from all corners of the world into the sport of golf like never before,'' LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said.
 
Wie's endorsement package is about $3 million more than what Sorenstam gets each year, even though the Swede has won 66 times on the LPGA Tour and nine majors.
 
Asked if she had any advice for the teen prodigy, Sorenstam said:
 
``So far, I think she is doing pretty good on her own. I think the key though is ... it needs to be fun. It's very important to have a passion for the game and play golf for the right reasons.''
 
Woods has never played with Wie, but does not question her ability.
 
``When I was 16, I wasn't even thinking about turning pro. I was just hoping to get into college somewhere,'' he said. ``She has a talent, and has been good enough to make a giant step like that.''
 
The first big step came Wednesday, with an announcement everyone knew was coming.
 
Her parents were there, of course. B.J. Wie took pictures of his only child as she sat on the stage.
 
``Bringing her down the stairs, it felt like it was a wedding,'' he said. ``It was a strange feeling. Becoming a professional means she will have more responsibility. She has to be able to handle much higher expectations. She'll have extra pressure.''
 
And the money?
 
Her father already has set up a trust that Wie can access when he feels she is ready. But he noted that she already has made sound stock investments using money she earned playing friendly matches against his pals.
 
``Her purse was filled with $5 bills,'' Dad said.
 
Related Links:
  • Video: Wie Makes Announcement
  • Wie Bio
  • Photo Gallery
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes