Once Again Wie Gets Free Pass into Event

By Associated PressOctober 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
  PALM DESERT, California -- Finally, some good news for Michelle Wie.
 
Barring a bad drop that gets her disqualified, or a recurring wrist injury that causes her to withdraw, she is guaranteed her largest paycheck this season. That's only because the Samsung World Championship doesn't have a cut, and last-place money of $12,499 is more than her total earnings on the golf course all year.
 
But that's beside the point.
 
The focus has shifted from whether Wie will break par to whether the 18-year-old from Hawaii should even be in the 20-player field gathered at Bighorn Golf Club in the California desert.
 
Driving the debate is Annika Sorenstam, who this time hammered Wie more through her actions than anything she said.
 
No one ever imagined Sorenstam, who at this time last year was still No. 1 in the world, would not be eligible for the most elite field in women's golf. The tournament takes the defending champion, the four major champions, the leading money-winner in Europe, one special exemption and the rest from the LPGA Tour money list.
 
Let's take a quick inventory.
 
Sorenstam is a five-time winner of the Samsung World Championship. She had gone six consecutive years winning at least one major. And dating to her rookie season, she had gone 12 consecutive years finishing no worse than fourth on the money list.
 
Then came the unimaginable.
 
Sorenstam got off to a slow start this year, which later was traced to back and neck injuries that kept her out of competition for two months. She has still not regained her form, failed to record a top-10 finish in the majors for the first time since her rookie season in 1994 and is at No. 32 on the money list.
 
Considering her 69 victories and the goodwill she has brought the LPGA through her performance, Sorenstam should be able to play wherever she wants.
 
It would have been a no-brainer to give her the special exemption, except for one problem. It was given to Wie back in March, before the kid went into a tailspin that not even the New York Mets could appreciate.
 
The perfect scenario for IMG, which runs the tournament and manages Sorenstam, would have been for Wie to give back the exemption based on the state of her game (her average score is 76.7) and so she wouldn't miss a week of her semester at Stanford.
 
When that didn't happen -- Wie's agent said she was never asked -- IMG and the LPGA Tour decided to 'update' the Samsung criteria by adding a new exemption for active Hall of Famers and awarding that to Sorenstam.
 
Only when she detected some backlash from taking a spot in the coveted field did Sorenstam decide it wasn't worth the hassle. She declined her invitation, ending 12 straight appearances at Samsung.
 
Tournament officials attributed her decision to 'contradictory and confusing information,' which means players who thought they were in suddenly realized they were out. That's what happens when you change the rules two weeks before a tournament.
 
The last spot at Bighorn thus went to Sarah Lee, who has 69 fewer victories and 10 fewer majors than Sorenstam.
 
In addition, it became clear this 'active Hall of Famer' exemption really was an 'Annika' exemption, for neither Juli Inkster nor Karrie Webb were offered the invitation, even though both are more qualified than Sorenstam at the moment.
 
Intentional or not, Sorenstam sent Wie a powerful message about doing the right thing.
 
Wie doesn't drive ticket sales like she once did. She doesn't make news like she once did, except when she withdraws from a tournament with an injury and is seen hitting balls at the next event two days later. This is her last LPGA Tour event of the year, and having not competed for nearly two months, what can anyone expect?
 
It gets even messier considering that if not for the special exemption created for Wie, the last spot at Bighorn would have gone to Natalie Gulbis, one of the most popular players on the LPGA Tour whose passion for golf is overshadowed by her good looks. Gulbis won her first LPGA event this year at the Evian Masters, where she finished 20 ahead of Wie.
 
If there is a message in all of this for Wie, there is an even stronger message for the LPGA Tour: Stop bending the rules.
 
This is not the first time the LPGA has changed the criteria at big events to appease sponsors and, not surprisingly, the other cases involve a certain teenager from Hawaii.
 
Samsung first came up with a special exemption for Wie in 2004.
 
A year later, the McDonald's LPGA Championship changed its rules to allow room for 'a leading amateur,' the first time in its 51-year history that the field was not comprised of all professionals. And when Wie turned pro, the criteria was changed again to exempt anyone who finished in the top five at a major. Lo and behold, Wie was eligible.
 
Also in 2005, the LPGA tweaked its rules regarding the number of sponsor exemptions for non-members. The limit used to be six, but officials decided not to count the Women's British Open against the number so Wie could play.
 
So after she turned pro that fall, the Kraft Nabisco people figured it was time to update their criteria to allow Wie and Morgan Pressel, who also had turned pro, into the limited field.
 
The USGA didn't help when it offered Wie exemptions twice, even though she had every opportunity to qualify, just like everyone else.
 
Perhaps no other sport has greater respect for its rules than golf. The LPGA Tour's propensity to massage them is dangerous, especially with drug testing set to begin next year.
 
Message to whoever is making these decisions: Credibility is everything.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.