Buzz Down to a Murmur Over Wie

By Associated PressJanuary 10, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- The only crowd watching Michelle Wie was the people she brought with her.

When she first played the Sony Open in 2004 as a ninth-grader, PGA TOUR players alongside her on the practice range would stop what they were doing to watch her hit balls, especially the driver. She turned heads walking across the putting green at Waialae Country Club because the gallery moved with her, along with a horde of photographers.

That wasn't the case Wednesday.

Wie walked onto the range to no fanfare, waiting for a spot to clear during the two-hour window that practice was allowed for players not competing in the pro-am. The 17-year-old took her place between Bob Estes and Billy Mayfair, neither of whom noticed. Her entourage consisted of her father (and caddie), her mother and instructor Sean Hogan. A Nike rep stopped by to check on her clubs.

Thursday will be her fourth straight time playing the Sony Open. What had been a buzz is now barely a murmur.

Wie still stands out because of her earrings, nail polish and the braided pigtails coming out of her newsboy hat.

Otherwise, she is starting to blend in.

'No one really talks about it,' Dean Wilson said. 'You know she's going to play. We've all seen her play. We've all seen her on TV. She's so popular that there's not much curiosity. You just cheer for her to make the cut.'

There is plenty of evidence to support that.

No more than 15 people followed Wie during a practice round Tuesday when she played with defending champion David Toms. During a 25-minute interview with Davis Love III on Wednesday, no one brought up Wie once.

'It's not a one-shot deal like it was with Annika,' Love later said, referring to Sorenstam playing the Colonial in 2003. 'We all know her now. I went up and said hello to her like she was another player.'

About the only thing that might change that is if Wie can deliver a new result.

She has missed the cut three previous times at Waialae, where she has an honorary membership. She is 1-for-12 making the cut against the men, the exception coming last spring at the SK Telecom Open in South Korea on the Asian Tour.

And based on her last four events against the men, there is little indication that this year at Waialae will be any different. Wie withdrew from the John Deere with heat exhaustion, taken away in a stretcher. She finished dead last at the European Masters and 84 Lumber Classic. And at the Casio World Open in Japan, the only player she beat was an amateur.

'I feel like the last couple of tournaments, I don't think I played to my full potential,' Wie said. 'This week, I want to play the best I can, hit every shot the best I can and try real hard. Whatever happens, happens. I want to play some good golf and make the cut.'

She has plenty of fans on TOUR, and just as many skeptics.

'I pull for her all the time,' Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger said.

Stuart Appleby says Wie continues to bring exposure to the Sony Open, but he's not sure when it will end, referring to it as a 'saga.'

'I think she came five years too early to play the men's tour,' he said. 'She should really just let it go for now, come back when she's accomplished at a game that's more comparable to someone like Annika. She's certainly not proving anything except that she can't play with the men at her level right now. There's not doubt she's going to improve dramatically as a player and mature as a person.

'But right now,' he added, 'it's just the wrong time.'

Wie has been dealing with criticism over the last three years, especially with a barren trophy case. She cashed her first paycheck at a PGA TOUR event Tuesday by winning a pro-junior shootout, paired with a junior golfer who goes to her school. She won the playoff over Wilson, closest to the pin from 100 yards out.

First place was $3,000.

When someone suggested that playing against the men was about marketing, Wie fired back.

'I guess being the only girl on the baseball team when I was 4-years-old was also a marketing plan -- not,' she said. 'It's what I want to do. Some people take it as, 'It's a marketing plan to make more money, blah, blah. But they don't realize it's what I want to do and I enjoy it. You can't trade happiness for anything.'

Meanwhile, her future remains unclear.

The highlight of 2006 was finding out last month she had been accepted to Stanford. She plans to enroll in the fall and doesn't expect to stop until she has a diploma, no matter how long it takes.

'I worked my butt off for four years in high school,' she said. 'I'm not going to just get into Stanford and not graduate.'

Wie first brought the buzz to east side of Oahu when shot 68 as a 14-year-old to miss the cut by one shot. Even though she hasn't come close the last two tries, she posted another 68 last year, making five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.

Her preparation has changed this year. Instead of spending every day at Waialae after the semester ended, Wie spent two weeks in Orlando, Fla., working with swing coach David Leadbetter. She opted out of the pro-am this year to do light work on her game.

She will find out over the next two days whether that makes a difference.

Related Links:
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."