Maybe Its Time for Wie to Change Her Course

By Associated PressNovember 28, 2006, 5:00 pm
For someone who grew up in Hawaii, Michelle Wie picked the perfect metaphor to explain her recent struggles.
'Golf goes in waves,' she said.
She was on the kind of wave found in winter at Waimea Bay earlier this year when she came within a whisker of becoming the youngest major champion in history, at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship. The biggest wave she caught might have been at Canoe Brook, when only a shaky putter kept Wie from becoming the first woman to qualify for the U.S. Open.
Michelle Wie
For Michelle Wie, the year has been filled with highs and lows.
Now, nearly every ride ends with a spectacular wipeout.
The latest was last week in Japan, where the 17-year-old Wie failed to break 80 in either of the first two rounds of the Casio World Open.
The only bright spot was that she didn't finish dead last, as she did at the Omega European Masters and the 84 Lumber Classic. An amateur, Tomomichi Oto, finished one shot worse.
The senior at Punahou School in Honolulu has gone back to the books for the final month of a tumultuous year, but Wie is eager to get back in the water. Asked if her latest crash would deter her from playing against the men, she replied, 'Not at all.'
Wie played seven times against the men this year, with an average score of 75.07 in 15 rounds (including U.S. Open qualifying). She broke par four times, twice at the SK Telecom Open when she became the first woman to make the cut on the Asian Tour.
Criticism comes not from missing the cut, but from an empty trophy case.
The last time Wie experienced winning was in 2004 at the Curtis Cup, a victory she shared with seven other amateurs. The last trophy she hoisted on her own was the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at age 13.
She changed caddies in August. She changed agents in October.
The next thing she should consider changing is her course.
Wie is not about to give up her dream of competing against the men, whether that's a realistic goal of earning a paycheck on the PGA Tour or her fantasy of playing in the Masters.
But, for now, the next paper she writes should be a letter to LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens asking that the age requirement (18) be waived so Wie can join the tour.
Don't hold your breath. The Wie camp seriously considered asking to join the LPGA Tour, but instead will stick to the plan of Wie playing part-time against the women and men, enjoying her senior year of high school and deciding where to go to college next year (her family has ties to Stanford and UCLA).
Joining the LPGA Tour, however, makes good sense.
The LPGA counts money from domestic tournaments with at least 75 players in the field, which limits Wie to the Fields Open, the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship (the U.S. Women's Open doesn't count because its purse is so large). With only those three tournaments, she still earned $238,913, well inside the top 90 on the money list to apply for membership.
Joining the LPGA would be a detour, not an about-face.
More than anything, it would give Wie better options in building a schedule. Without an LPGA Tour card, she can play only eight times against the women -- six sponsors' exemptions, the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open. To fill in the holes, she wound up playing six times against the men.
Given her success rate against men, and the damage it might be doing to her confidence, that's probably four times too many.
Having not won in more than three years, Wie made solid progress this year. She missed a 10-foot birdie putt to get into a playoff at the Nabisco, and had a share of the lead on the 16th hole of the LPGA Championship until making bogey with a wedge in her hand.
'I felt like every tournament I went into, I had a chance to win on Sunday,' she said last month. 'That excitement was the best. Almost winning, it gave me a lot of confidence. It was the first time for me, really, having a chance to win.'
Now, she's not even close.
She has averaged 79 in her last three men's events. Against the women, she has failed to break par in her last eight rounds.
And the schedule doesn't allow for her confidence to be replenished any time soon. When she starts next year on the LPGA Tour in February, Wie will have played only five times in a six-month stretch, four of those against the men.
Physically, the culprit has been her driver. Wie plans to spend two weeks with David Leadbetter in Orlando, Fla., before starting next season at the Sony Open. The rest of her schedule has not been determined, but it's not too late to consider the LPGA as a home base, as much for her image as her psyche.
As a rookie, she would have to play only 10 tournaments to keep her membership -- two more than she played this year, which would mean two fewer against the men.
What likely will keep her from joining now is her senior year of high school; Wie only played four times during the spring semester this year, and one of those weeks was spring break. And some of the best LPGA events are in the spring, such as Phoenix, Kingsmill and Orlando.
The only downside would be giving up some of the appearance money. The LPGA Tour allows its members two releases a year to play overseas, where Wie commands as much as $1.5 million. Considering her total income this year was about $20 million, she can afford it.
What she can't afford are more wipeouts.
Copyright 2006 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 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