Notes No Help for Wie British Washout

By Associated PressJune 28, 2006, 4:00 pm
NEWPORT, R.I. -- Juli Inkster took only 105 putts when she won the U.S. Women's Open four years ago at Prairie Dunes, and caddie Greg Johnston played a big role in helping Inkster read some of the subtle breaks in the greens.
Now that he's on the bag with Michelle Wie, however, Johnston has gone mute.
That's by design.
Wie is trying to develop independence as a golfer by reading greens by herself, and some believe it has cost the 16-year-old from Hawaii in her last few tournaments. She missed six birdie putts inside 12 feet in her morning round of U.S. Open qualifying, and she took 12 more putts than LPGA Championship winner Se Ri Pak at Bulle Rock.
'The old saying is you learn from your mistakes,' said B.J. Wie, her father. 'On the LPGA Tour, I think some players are overly dependent on their caddies.'
But their were two contrasting images from Bulle Rock.
On the par-5 eighth green, Wie paced off a 45-foot chip from the first cut that went over a ridge, studying the break the last 12 feet to the hole as Johnston stood on the far side of the green, keeping to himself. Earlier that day, Karrie Webb -- one of the best putters on the LPGA Tour -- crouched over a 10-foot par putt when she called over caddie Mike Paterson for a second opinion.
Is it hurting Wie to not taking any advice from her caddie, especially one of Johnston's caliber?
But the teenager isn't about to change now. She feels she will be a better putter in the long run if she learns to read greens by herself, and Wie has shown she is under no pressure to win immediately. This remains a work in progress.
'I feel like I can trust myself better,' Wie said Tuesday. 'Obviously, if there's a really tricky putt, then I'm going to ask Greg to read it with me. But if I feel confident the way I'm putting, then I should just go with how I feel.'
Even so, there are many examples of players relying on their caddies for a second set of eyes. One of the biggest putts Tiger Woods made in a major came on the 17th hole at Medinah seven years ago in the PGA Championship. Uncertain of the break, caddie Steve Williams gave him the line and Woods holed the par putt, winning by one shot.
'I'm not going to make every single putt, and I'm never going to be really happy with how I putt,' Wie said. 'But I think that every putt I hit, miss or make, is just going to make me a better putter.'
The British Open qualifier scheduled at Congressional was washed out Tuesday, and no one was more disturbed than Brad Faxon.
Heavy rain left the course unplayable, and officials awarded the 12 spots from the world ranking. Faxon missed by four spots in the ranking, and now has to play well this week in Hartford, where he is the defending champion, to have any chance of going to Royal Liverpool for the British Open.
Faxon thinks so highly of golf's oldest championship that he flew over to Scotland for local qualifying last year and earned one of the three spots. He received warm applause at every turn at St. Andrews for his willingness to fly across the Atlantic to qualify.
'Going there was the highlight of my year,' Faxon said.
It was a sad coincidence that Faxon was on the PGA Tour policy board when it approved a British Open qualifier that was held in the United States for convenience. He was the only player who voted against the plan, believing that Americans -- or anyone else, for that matter -- should be willing to travel to Britain if they want to play in the Open.
'I just feel like the British Open is so much different from playing golf anywhere here in America,' he said. 'We should have to do it over there.'
Then there's the date change.
The Royal & Ancient moved up one week local qualifying. Instead of playing the weekend before the Open, local qualifying now is July 10-11, meaning a player would have to stick around Liverpool for a week before the major. That eats up three weeks of PGA Tour time.
'To do that would mean missing the Western Open and the John Deere Classic, and it's still no bargain -- three spots,' Faxon said. 'It's not like there's eight or six spots. That was really disappointing.'
He's angry at himself for not playing better to be exempt into the British Open. And he was angry about the rain.
Making matters worse -- although this would not have helped him -- the U.S. qualifier was supposed to have 15 spots available. But when a number of players withdrew, the R&A took away three spots and gave them to the European qualifier.
'I didn't need to know that,' Faxon said. 'I was mad enough as it was.'
All is not lost. Faxon still can qualify for the British Open if he is the leading player not already eligible who finishes in the top 10 at the Buick Championship. Otherwise, he could be headed for the B.C. Open instead of the British Open.
Hawaii's flag will be flying proudly at Newport Country Club.
Along with Michelle Wie, the most famous golfer from the islands, Hawaii has three other players at the U.S. Women's Open. Stephanie Kono, Kimberly Kim and Ayaka Kaneko each made it through sectional qualifying, giving Hawaii its own foursome at Newport.
Wie played with Kim's sister in junior events in Hawaii, and she played with Kim during a practice round Tuesday.
'I was really surprised when I played with her today,' Wie said. 'It was nice seeing someone from back home.'
The British Open remains the only major where juniors can get in free when accompanied by an adult, and it likely will stay that way.
'We have a great limitation on the number of tickets we can sell,' USGA executive director David Fay said when asked if the U.S. Open would ever allow teenagers in for free. 'You and I can walk up off the street to the British Open. We can't do that in the United States. We don't have the room.'
The U.S. Open has been a sellout since 1998.
But it's a different story at the U.S. Women's Open. Those under the age 17 will get free admission when accompanied by an adult who has a ticket.
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be moving back to the TPC Louisiana next year. The TPC course was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and sustained so much tree damage that it has been closed since the storm. Chris Couch won the Zurich Classic at English Turn in April. The TPC Louisiana is to open to the public on July 15. ... Annika Sorenstam will play in the Middle East for the first time when she competes in the inaugural Dubai Ladies Masters, to be held Oct. 26-29. That's the same week as the CJ Nine Bridges Classic in South Korea, an official LPGA Tour event.
Steve Stricker earned $989,136 in his last three years combined on the PGA Tour. In eight tournaments this year, he has earned $1,065,119.
'I thought I was watching me.' -- Michelle Wie, on Phil Mickelson making double bogey on the 18th hole at Winged Foot to lose the U.S. Open.
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