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.

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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.

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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.