Older Wiser Wie a Work in Progress

By Associated PressOctober 11, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Samsung World ChampionshipPALM DESERT, Calif. -- Michelle Wie celebrated her 17th birthday Wednesday. Next up is an anniversary.
 
One year ago at the Samsung World Championship, the 6-foot teenager from Hawaii steadied her nerves and ripped a 3-wood down the middle of the fairway to embark on a professional career that was loaded with expectations and perhaps more hype than any player in LPGA Tour history.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie was eventually disqualified from last year's Samsung because of this improper drop.
Expectations remain high. The scrutiny is still severe.
 
And one year later, the trophy case remains bare.
 
'Every week I go into, I want to win,' Wie said at Bighorn Golf Club, where her family has bought a second home. 'I'm not going to force it to happen, because it will happen.'
 
But with each tournament -- 14 as a pro, plus a U.S. Open qualifier -- the question of 'when' slowly is shifting to 'if.'
 
Strangely enough, the Samsung World Championship with its 20-player field and no cut is the only LPGA Tour event where Wie failed to earn a paycheck. She finished in fourth place, 10 shots behind Annika Sorenstam, but an improper drop in the third round that was pointed out a day later led to Wie being disqualified.
 
Memories are mixed at Bighorn given a rocky start to her career.
 
And even her first full year as a pro is bound to get mixed reviews. Wie has played only seven LPGA Tour events this year because she is not a tour member, yet she has earned $718,343, which would put her at No. 14 on the money list. Karrie Webb, Sorenstam and Wie are the only players to average more than $100,000 per start this year.
 
Despite not winning, Wie came within a whisker of capturing three majors.
 
She had a 25-foot eagle chip to win the Kraft Nabisco, missing a playoff when she failed to get up-and-down. She was tied for the lead on the 16th hole of the LPGA Championship until her wedge found a greenside bunker leading to bogey. And she was tied at the U.S. Women's Open until making bogey on the 13th hole in the final round, closing with all pars to miss a playoff by two shots.
 
'I guess I'm taking it patiently,' Wie said at Bighorn Golf Club, where her family now has a second home. 'But I feel like being in contention this year, really getting the feel for what it's like to be in contention on the Sunday in a major ... I learned a lot from that. That's the way I'm learning how to win, and I feel like it's going to happen.'
 
What taints her year was competing against the men.
 
Wie rose to international acclaim as a 14-year-old player when she shot 68 in the Sony Open and missed the cut by one shot. A year later, she shot 70-71 at the John Deere Classic and narrowly made the cut.
 
But as a professional on the PGA Tour, she has looked more like an amateur.
 
An image that captured a troublesome end to her summer came at the John Deere Classic, when she withdrew after nine holes in the second round with heat exhaustion and was shown being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher.
 
She tied for 26th at the Women's British Open -- her only finish outside the top 5 on the LPGA -- and fired her caddie without anyone from the Wie family breaking the news. And after starting her senior year at Punahou School in Honolulu, Wie took a two-week break to take on the end and finished both times, in the European Masters and the 84 Lumber Classic.
 
'I have to learn how to schedule better, how much my body can take and when I should play,' Wie said. 'My first year, I haven't got it down yet. Obviously, I learn from my mistakes.'
 
Perceptions of her first year as a pro depends on the size of the picture.
 
The most recent image is her humbling results against the men. But it is hard to ignore her close calls in three majors, along with the Fields Open in Hawaii and the Evian Masters in France.
 
'She has played extremely well on the LPGA Tour, and I think it's been a very good learning year for her,' Webb said. 'Even though her results may have been similar to last year, she's actually been in contention in the last round, rather than having a very good last round and finishing third or second or fourth. ... She should be very proud of the year she has had for someone so young.'
 
Sorenstam never played with Wie over the last 12 months, so she was hesitant to judge her first full season.
 
'I must say, she's been very consistent in the majors,' Sorenstam said. 'But that's all I know.'
 
Sorenstam made quite the statement last year at Bighorn. Her eight-shot victory was her fifth at the Samsung World Championship, and another victory this week would make her the first LPGA Tour player to capture the same event six times.
 
For all her stardom, Sorenstam was virtually forgotten at Bighorn last year before the tournament started.
 
The attention was squarely on Wie making her professional debut, and the interest was so high that tournament officials had to build a media tent on an empty lot near the clubhouse. This year, the turnout is typical for an LPGA event, with only a dozen or so reporters stationed in a small tent on the edge of the practice range.
 
Wie warmed up Wednesday morning for her pro-am round in virtual solitude, and only about two dozen people braved hot, arid conditions to follow her around Bighorn.
 
This will be her final LPGA Tour event of the year because she is limited to eight starts without becoming a member. Only one tournament remains, the Casio World Open on the Japan PGA Tour in late November.
 
Playing against men is still part of her future
 
'It's just going to be a long process for me,' Wie said. 'I'm willing to work at it. It's a lot of fun for me, so definitely, hopefully, I'm going to play a lot of men's events (next) year.'
 
In the meantime, she will try to fill that trophy case.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Samsung World Championship
  • Full Coverage - Samsung World Championship
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Getty Images

    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

     

     

    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.