Notes Perks of Winning Wie Watch
Some of the best perks came Tuesday.
Verplank stood outside the locker room at Quail Hollow and could barely complete a sentence without players, caddies and officials stopping by to congratulate him. His cell phone was so overloaded with voice mail and text messages that the screen broke, so he switched to his wife's phone and that one broke, too.
``I'm on my third in two days,'' he said. ``I've had more people call and text message me than I ever have in my life.''
It was the fifth win of his PGA TOUR, and by far the most meaningful.
Verplank won the Western Open while in school at Oklahoma State, at the time the first amateur in 29 years to win on tour. His last victory had been the Canadian Open in 2001, significant because it came a few weeks after he was the first player to make his first Ryder Cup team as a captain's pick.
Winning the Byron Nelson was emotional in so many ways.
He was among the best juniors in Dallas, and his relationship with Nelson began when Verplank was 17 and Nelson called him up and asked to watch him hit balls. To win the first tournament after Nelson died was almost too much for him to handle.
``I've never been choked up winning a golf tournament in my life,'' Verplank said, who struggled slightly to keep his composure even as he spoke on Tuesday. ``There's no crying in golf, but I'm telling you, I could hardly speak.''
And while it was important to win for the memory of Nelson, it also was meaningful for his grandfather.
Bob Bybee had been hospitalized that week because of congenital heart failure. Verplank went to see his 87-year-old grandfather after his first round Thursday.
``I called him right when I got done (Sunday) and asked him if he was feeling better,'' Verplank said. ``He said, 'You betcha!' To me, he's a guy a lot like Byron Nelson. He's been a great influence in my life. He's a real gentleman, and he was a pretty fair golfer in his day.''
Michelle Wie has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Canadian Women's Open, the first time she will play north of the U.S. border. The tournament will be held Aug. 16-19 at Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton.
But it won't be her first time playing a Canadian event.
Wie first played against the men in 2003 at age 14 in the Bay Mills Open Players Championship on the Canadian Tour, even though the tournament was held in Michigan. She missed the cut after rounds of 74-79.
``I'm excited to get out there and play again and especially excited to make my professional debut in Canada,'' she said.
Playing the Canadian Women's Open likely will give Wie three straight events on the LPGA Tour, as it follows the Evian Masters in France and the Women's British Open at St. Andrews. Wie would have a week off before going to Canada.
And then it will be off to college for her freshman year at Stanford.
Wie, 17, has not played since the Sony Open because of a wrist injury. She is to return to competition at the Ginn Tribute, a new LPGA event in South Carolina to be held the last week in May.
David Toms had to withdraw from the Wachovia Championship because of personal reasons, leaving the tournament with 27 of the top 30 players in the world ranking. The other players from the top 30 not at Quail Hollow are Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
Also pulling out was David Duval.
The former British Open champion has not played since the Nissan Open in February because his wife, pregnant with their second child, is not bed rest for the final four months of her pregnancy.
Val Skinner, a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour who has devoted 15 years to raising money for breast cancer research, will be honored with the Winnie Palmer Award at the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association dinner June 18.
Skinner in 1996 launched a program called LIFE (LPGA pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer), which benefits the New Jersey Cancer Institute and Susan G. Komen for a Cure. The annual charity pro-am has raised $500,000 every year, the largest single-day donation ever for breast cancer from a golf event.
The Winnie Palmer Award was created in 2000 to acknowledge an individual who has consistently given time, energy and enthusiasm to those less fortunate. The award is named in honor of Arnold Palmer's deceased wife Winnie, who devoted much of her life to charity work for literacy programs and health care.
Of the 58 players exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open, only 26 are from the United States. ... Luke Donald has 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Byron Nelson Championship, but still no trophy. He has finished second, tied for sixth and tied for 18th the last three years. ... Vaughn Taylor has signed an endorsement deal with E-Z-GO, the world's largest manufacturer of golf carts. The deal is a perfect fit because both are based in Augusta, Ga., and Taylor's mother worked at E-Z-GO for 18 years. Vijay Singh will be playing the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour on May 24-27, the first of four straight tournaments through the U.S. Open. It will be the 10th time Singh has played Europe's flagship event, with one only top 10. ... Brett Wetterich got the prime parking spot at the Byron Nelson Championship as the defending champion. He also gets good spots at the World Golf Championships. ``My name is close to Tiger's and he's always up front,'' he said.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Americans have won 13 of the first 18 events on the PGA Tour, their best start since they won 14 times through April in 2001.
``It's not a business of being sentimental. It's a business of trying to win as many tournaments as you can.'' - Jerry Kelly, explaining why only two of the top 10 players in the world ranking played in the Byron Nelson Championship.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
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.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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.”
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.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.
Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.
McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.
He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.
McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65).
Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds.
“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.
Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.
Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.
Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.