Big Easy Shares Billing with Big Wiesy

By Associated PressJanuary 12, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Sony OpenHONOLULU - Ernie Els has played before the largest galleries this week at the Sony Open, in part because he is trying to become the first player in its 40-year history to win three straight times. And also because the Big Easy has been hanging around the Big Wiesy.
 
In the first full-field event, with the No. 1 player (Vijay Singh) at Waialae Country Club for the first time, 15-year-old Michelle Wie remains the star attraction as she pursues history of her own. She will try to become the first woman to make the cut on the PGA Tour since Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Tucson Open.
 
Impossible?
 
A year ago, Wie shot 68 in the second round ' the lowest score by a female competing against men ' and finished at even-par 140 to miss the cut by one shot.
 
'To me, the two stories are: Can Ernie win three in a row? And Michelle Wie, how is she going to play?' David Toms said Wednesday. 'I think it's good for this golf tournament.'
 
It might be a little tougher for Wie this time around.
 
She now has a performance to measure herself against. And while expectations are high, so is the rough. Add in some heavy rain in recent weeks, and Waialae Country Club is playing every bit of its 7,060 yards.
 
Wie headed to the practice range late Wednesday afternoon, searching for a spot between Zach Johnson and Jesper Parnevik as she tried to control her driver.
 
She was to tee off Thursday at 8:59 a.m. HST, playing with 31-year-old Brett Wetterich and 23-year-old Matt Davidson, who graduated from Furman last year and will be playing his first PGA Tour event.
 
Els wasn't willing to offer any predictions, only that he is no less astonished by her game.
 
'It's amazing what she is doing ' a 15-year-old girl playing in a PGA Tour event,' Els said. 'She's doing a hell of a job, and she believes she can play with us, which is great. I think from last year to this year, I could see her developing as a person now.'
 
Els also played a practice round last year, fitting since Wie was dubbed the 'Big Wiesy' as a 12-year-old when Tom Lehman compared her swing favorably with Els.
 
They played twice this time ' a practice round Tuesday, the pro-am round Wednesday ' and it wasn't hard to figure out where they were on the traditional course lined by skinny palms.
 
Just look for the crowds.
 
'Home crowds can go two ways,' Jim Furyk said. 'But at the tender age of 15, I think she's probably very well-suited to pressure and having the home crowd. And she's well, well, well beyond her years, well beyond a 30-year-old probably in a lot of ways.'
 
The first full-field event of the year features four players from the Champions Tour ' Monday qualifier Dick Mast, Peter Jacobsen, Craig Stadler (playing this week with son Kevin, a PGA Tour rookie) and Tom Kite, who is using a one-time exemption from the money list to play one final year on the PGA Tour.
 
And while the PGA Tour season is only one week old, it allows Els a chance at redemption.
 
Just four days ago, he stood on the 18th tee at Kapalua needing a birdie on the par 5 to force a playoff. Instead, his tee shot sailed to the right, hit a cart path and went out of bounds.
 
He seems to have recovered.
 
'I made a mistake there and it was difficult,' he said. 'But I'm fine now. It's not like it's never happened before. But yeah, I look at the bad side. I had a chance to win and I blew that. The good side is it's the first tournament of the year. It's not a bad start to the year.'
 
Waialae is a good place for him to feel good vibes.
 
The Buick Classic, the Heineken Classic and the World Match Play Championship in England (where he has a home on the 16th fairway) are the only other tournaments Els has won at least two times in a row.
 
It wasn't easy at the Sony Open.
 
He outlasted Aaron Baddeley on the second playoff hole two years ago when Els holed a 55-foot birdie putt and Baddeley three-putted for bogey from 20 feet. A year ago, Els lost a two-shot lead on the back nine, then beat Harrison Frazar on the third extra hole with a 30-foot birdie putt.
 
'I've been fortunate in those playoffs,' Els said. 'It could have gone either way. I could be sitting here and moaning about how I lost them, but I won them. That's a good thing.'
 
Even so, he has never finished worse than fifth in his four previous years at the Sony Open.
 
'It helps when you have a good feel around the place,' Els said. 'Definitely, I have it here. But you've still got to go out there and play the course. You can't go back on your record.'
 
That's good advice for anyone this week, especially Wie.
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''