Big Wiesy Big Attraction

By Associated PressJanuary 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- The was the only one on the course wearing big, dangling earrings. A thick black belt lined with square metal studs circled her waist. She wore a silver bracelet on her right wrist and a white watch on her left.
 
Michelle Wie, all of 15, understands fashion just fine. She can also hit the daylights out of the ball, and on a given day hold her own with the men on the PGA Tour. She also has marketers wondering if this 10th-grade girl is the next big thing in sports.
 
Wie's latest foray is the Sony Open, a tournament that boasts the likes of Ernie Els. But the two-time defending champion from South Africa is hardly the reason behind some of the largest galleries to pack Waialae Country Club. They are coming to watch Wie, playing on her home turf with the big boys.
 
'Michelle's creating excitement because she's breaking down barriers,' said Greg Nichols, general manager at Ko Olina Golf Club and a junior golf coach. 'She has created a huge wave for golf.'
 
College is still a ways off for Wie, but that hasn't stopped potential sponsors from scouting her the last few years. Among them is Greg Nared, a business affairs manager for Nike, who has been tracking her game and appeal to see whether she has the stuff of a good 'Nike athlete' like Tiger Woods, who brought droves of youngsters to the sport.
 
'She's good for the game because she could attract younger people and females,' said Nared, adding that Wie's Korean heritage has appeal in the Asian market.
 
When asked whether Wie could make the game 'sexier,' in the same way the Williams sisters upended the staid fashion world of tennis, Nared said, 'She's a beautiful girl and she wears clothes well.'
 
Poised and a statuesque 6 feet, Wie can easily pass for 25 in makeup and an evening gown, such as the sparkling red number she wore last May to a newcomer awards ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal.
 
On Thursday, a silver pair of chandelier earrings with green and gray-black stones dangled from her lobes. Her turquoise golf shirt, made of a silklike synthetic, was slightly flashier than those of other players in the tournament, but tastefully tucked in to white slacks. The PGA dress code requires long pants.
 
For all her fashion sense though, Wie does not figure to go the way of Anna Kournikova, whom many criticized for too much preening and not enough points on the women's pro tennis tour.
 
Wie struggled with her game Friday, shooting a 4-over 74 to finish 17 shots behind leader Shigeki Maruyama, and seven shots below the cut line.
 
Two years ago, she became the youngest winner of a USGA title for adults when she captured the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. She also played in the final group of an LPGA major at 13, tying for ninth in the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and tied for fourth in the Nabisco last year.
 
Wie has played 17 times on the LPGA Tour. Had she not been an amateur, she would have earned enough in seven LPGA events last year to have finished in the top 50 on the money list.
 
Wie's gallery was the largest by far of any golfer Thursday during the windy first round. Her parents, B.J. and Bo Wie, family friends and thousands of locals outnumbered spectators following the tour's staple attractions, including Vijay Singh, the No. 1 player in the world, and Els, always a popular draw in Hawaii.
 
She was easy to find, and not just because of her height or dress - just look for the largest crowd, moving en masse to follow each shot, and a dozen photographers trying to capture her every move.
 
'We have to support our little girl,' said Faith Shimizu, who golfs regularly on Oahu. 'She's a youngster from Hawaii making a name for herself all over the world.'
 
The Punahou School student missed the cut in the Sony Open last year by one shot, shooting a 68 in the second round for the best score by a female on the PGA Tour. She talks often about playing in the LPGA and PGA simultaneously, and hopes to someday qualify for the Masters.
 
A West Oahu golf club and a local hospital charity are already benefiting from Wie's swift rise. Dozens of spectators wore 'Go Michelle' pins with the Ko Olina Golf Club logo on their visors. The Miracle Birdie Club was collecting a dollar for each birdie Wie made at the Sony Open to donate to Kapiolani Children's Miracle Network.
 
Despite finishing at 5-over-par 75 and making just one birdie, Wie showed she could compete.
 
'I was very impressed, all the different shots she was playing,' said Matt Davidson, who made his PGA Tour debut partnered with Wie. 'I didn't feel like I was playing with a 15-year-old girl. She's very polished. She has all the tools to be out here.'
 
It's not just Hawaii where she attracts the large galleries. At the U.S. Women's Open last year in Massachusetts, where Wie tied for 13th, as many people watched her as Annika Sorenstam, one of the world's most famous female athletes.
 
Wie draws strength from the attention. 'It was great having all the fans out here,' she said. 'They were supporting me and like, 'Oh, you can do it,' and, 'Good round.' It was great. It helped me.'
 
Erin Noel, whose boyfriend, Brett Wetterich, played alongside Wie on Thursday, is excited about seeing a girl in a PGA tournament.
 
'I'm totally into it,' she said. 'I think it's awesome because what is she, like, 15?'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Sony Open
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open
     
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.