With overdue win expectations return for Wie

By Associated PressNovember 16, 2009, 9:21 pm

From a hotel suite in Honolulu overlooking the golf course where MichelleWie first showed her awesome potential, she looked at newspaper photos fromvarious stages of her youth and realized those days were behind her.

She was 15 and had just turned pro.

Within a year, her income approached $20 million, more than any other femalegolfer.

“I know I have to win. That’s my priority now,” Wie said that day. “Theyall expect me to do better and work harder.”

That was four years ago, spanning 42 starts on the LPGA Tour. Thoseexpectations took a long time to fulfill.

Her face was flush with celebration and relief Sunday when Wie blasted outof a bunker to tap-in range for a two-shot victory in Mexico. She thrust herarms in the air, covered her mouth and before long, she finally tasted that LPGAtradition for first-time winners by getting showered with beer.

It was clear an enormous burden had been lifted.

Wie created those expectations by shooting 68 on the PGA Tour at age 14, byhaving at least a share of the lead on the back nine of three majorchampionships when she was 16, by coming within nine holes of qualifying for theU.S. Open and by developing shots that few other women were capable of hitting.

“For sure, it’s definitely off my back,” said Wie, now 20 and in her thirdyear at Stanford. “I think that hopefully, life will be a lot better. But Istill have a lot of work to do. I still have a lot to improve. It just feels sogreat right now.”

But as one burden is lifted, another is soon to arrive.

The timing could not have been better for the LPGA Tour, which is starvedfor attention and struggling to climb out of an economic morass that likely willlead to the fewest tournaments it has had in years.

The tour finally got rid of its commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, and replacedher with Michael Whan, who is to be introduced in Houston on Wednesday and takesover at the start of 2010.

The LPGA needs star power, and no other player can move the needle like Wie.

She was attracting the largest crowds even when Annika Sorenstam was stillplaying and winning majors.

Paula Creamer was 18 and had not gone through high school graduation whenshe captured her first LPGA Tour victory. Morgan Pressel was 18 when she becamethe youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history. Neither generated as muchattention as Wie winning for the first time in Mexico at a tournament that wasshown on tape delay.

Wie won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, named after the No. 1 player inwomen’s golf. Yet not even Ochoa could not carry the tour. When she was goingfor a record-tying fifth straight victory last year in Oklahoma, it receivedonly local coverage. The Golf Channel did not send a crew to document herwinning streak.

Wie has the kind of appeal not seen since Nancy Lopez—but only if shekeeps winning.

Clearly, her impact on women’s golf would have been far greater had Wie wonmuch earlier. She attracted attention because of her power and her youth, andshe only has one of those left.

Even now, Wie has only one victory. Ochoa remains the No. 1 player, whileJiyai Shin has shown to be the best this year, on the verge of becoming thefirst player since Lopez in 1978 to win player of the year and rookie of theyear in the same season. Wie played 18 times this year and is not among the top10 on the LPGA money list.

To predict greatness after one victory is tantamount to the predictions shefaced when she first turned pro.

Wie winning can only help, although the LPGA Tour still faces a mightystruggle. Sponsorship dollars remain tough to find and the tour does not have anetwork TV deal. The Golf Channel televises LPGA events on a tape-delay basis.And while Wie played a full schedule this year, she also remains devoted to hereducation—and the Cardinal football team—at Stanford.

She is still only 20, but already has been through more than most players onthe LPGA Tour.

Wie lost goodwill in some golf circles by trying to compete against the menbefore she had proved herself on the LPGA Tour. She was 0-for-7 trying to makethe cut on the PGA Tour, although it has been almost three years since she lasttried.

She endured more criticism from the media than any other female golfer in2007 while trying to play through an injury. The worst of it came after shewithdrew from Sorenstam’s tournament while on the verge of shooting 88—whichwould have banned for from playing for a year—only to show up two days laterat Bulle Rock to prepare for a major.

Most impressive about Wie was that through it all, she never lashed out atany of her critics. She earned respect by going through LPGA Q-school last yearand by leading the United States to victory in the Solheim Cup.

And now—finally—she’s a winner.

Among her immediate plans were “definitely bask in the glory.”

The LPGA Tour surely will try to capitalize on this moment, as it should,although the tour should be mindful of the four years that preceded Wie’svictory, and the four years before that when she was girl among men.

Keep the expectations reasonable.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.