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.
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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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.