Next Step Win Against Women

By Associated PressJune 7, 2006, 4:00 pm
McDonaldHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- Playing in the U.S. Open wasn't the only thing on Michelle Wie's mind.
Her chances of getting to Winged Foot might have been better had she stayed in Hawaii for the 36-hole sectional qualifier instead of trying to get one of the 18 spots in a large field of PGA Tour players. The one spot available at Poipu Bay -- there were only 10 players in that field -- went to 15-year-old Tadd Fujikawa, whom Wie beat by two shots in the first stage of qualifying.
But staying in Hawaii would have meant missing the McDonald's LPGA Championship, and that means just as much to Wie.
Given a choice between playing against Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open, or winning the LPGA Championship for her first major -- and first victory in three years -- Wie deliberated a few minutes before choosing the trophy.
'I think it would be to win this week,' she said at Bulle Rock Golf Club, a course that brings good memories. 'Winning this week would be really awesome.'
Annika Sorenstam is the three-time defending champion when the LPGA Championship gets under way Thursday, with designs of becoming the first woman to win the same major four straight times, a feat matched only by Walter Hagen from 1924-27 at the PGA Championship when the format was match play.
Karrie Webb is the only woman with a chance at the Grand Slam this year, having won the Kraft Nabisco Championship with an eagle from 116 yards in the 18th fairway and a 7-foot birdie putt in the playoff. The hottest player might be Lorena Ochoa, who has won twice and finished second five times this year, putting her atop the money list.
But as usual, the attention is squarely on the 16-year-old Wie.
It started Tuesday night, when she threw out the first pitch at the Baltimore Orioles' game against Toronto, which surely didn't go over well with other LPGA Tour players who sat in a private box.
The pressure cranks up Thursday at Bulle Rock, where last year Wie closed with a 69 to finish three shots behind Sorenstam. She never had a serious chance of winning, even though she trimmed five shots off Sorenstam's lead over the final nine holes.
Expectations are higher than ever.
Wie's game has shown improvement, even as her putter remains spotty, having made the cut in an Asian Tour event against the men, and showing remarkable control with her irons at Canoe Brook on Monday during the U.S. Open qualifier.
Trying to rest after a 10-hour day on Monday -- 'I felt like I was 80 years old when I woke up,' she said -- Wie didn't start her practice round until Wednesday afternoon, when gray clouds sent light rain onto the 6,596-yard course.
But as hard as Wie prepared for the U.S. Open qualifier, she spent just as much time last week practicing at Bulle Rock.
'I'm even more motivated to play better this week,' she said.
What makes these interesting times are her schedule.
As a junior at Punahou School in Honolulu, Wie rarely had a chance to play two tournaments in a row, or even two in a month. Now that school is out, she will keep a golf schedule similar to other professionals.
'We're never going to see what she's capable of until she plays a bunch of tournaments in a row,' swing coach David Leadbetter said.
This might be the time to find out.
After the McDonald's LPGA Championship, Wie heads to the U.S. Women's Open on June 29, then straight to the Women's World Match Play Championship. Then she goes to the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour, followed by consecutive weeks on LPGA Tour at the Evian Masters and Women's British Open.
'I feel like I can go to the next step,' Wie said.
She didn't always feel this way. It wasn't until last summer that Wie, who possesses enormous power with a golf club, honestly believed she was capable of winning. She shot 82 in the final round of the U.S. Women's Open, and that turned out to be the last time she finished out of the top three in an LPGA event.
'I felt like my ability was good enough and I had enough potential,' Wie said. 'And I felt like during the winter I worked hard enough. So hopefully, it will show this summer.'
Two other teenagers also have big hopes.
Paula Creamer, 19, has gotten off to a slow start this year, and she showed up Wednesday with her right wrist wrapped by a bandage. An MRI showed a sprained ligament, and she said it hurts at impact, but she fight through it.
Morgan Pressel just turned 18, which coincided with her high school graduation. The U.S. Women's Open runner-up turned in her strongest performance of the year last week, and tends to thrive on tough courses.
Pressel has made some of the strongest comments about Wie, once noting that she was doing her 'woo-woo thing with the men.' But she considers Wie a friend, and harbors no ill will toward the Hawaii star for playing against the men.
'She can go over to Japan and play for a guarantee, as much money as some of our purses,' Pressel said. 'Why would she want to come play in LPGA events when she's making lots of money. I wish she would play more on the LPGA Tour, but she's got it made.'
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”