Rookie Leads Wie Webb Crash

By Associated PressJune 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- In a U.S. Women's Open dominated by talk of teenagers, one of them wound up atop the leaderboard.
 
And hardly anyone noticed.
 
As 17-year-old Michelle Wie continued her free fall and 12-year-old Alexis Thompson played carefree until it was too dark to continue, LPGA Tour rookie Angela Park, 18, birdied her first three holes and hung on for a 3-under 68, leaving her in the lead in the first round for the second straight major.
 
No rain touched the turf at Pine Needles, but play was suspended for 3 1/2 hours because of lightning in the area, allowing only the morning batch of 78 players to finish the round.
 
Thompson, the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women's Open history, three-putted the 18th green for a bogey that put her at 3 over par after nine holes, a respectable start considering she played the tougher back nine first. Wie went off early, and fell off the map quickly. She hit only four fairways, matched her highest score in a Women's Open with an 82, and offered an assessment that was hard to grasp.
 
'It's just a very fine line between shooting 69 and shooting what I shot today,' said Wie, who stretched her streak to 21 rounds without breaking par.
 
She wasn't the only one who struggled.
 
Karrie Webb, a seven-time major champion who won the U.S. Women's Open the last time it was played at Pine Needles in 2001, failed to make a birdie and walked off with an 83, her highest score on the LPGA Tour.
 
'I have no excuses. I'm not that kind of player,' Webb said. 'Do you think I had any idea I'd shoot 83? It was a terrible round, one of the worst days of my career.'
 
Three players were at 2 under at various points on Pine Needles -- In-Bee Park (16 holes), Jee Young Lee (12) and Karine Icher (10).
 
Defending champion Annika Sorenstam was at even par through 13 holes.
 
Park also was tied for the lead at the LPGA Championship after one round, eventually finishing fifth.
 
'Maybe this week will be different,' said Park, who was born in Brazil to South Korean parents and grew up in California.
 
She played in the morning, when Pine Needles was soft from overnight rain and the wind hadn't begun to rustle the pines, and she quickly fired off three straight birdies. Park was at 4 under most of the round until hitting a tee shot into the trees on the 17th, pitching out and missing a 25-foot par putt.
 
Park played before hardly any gallery, most of them watching Wie self-destruct again. Time and again, the Hawaii teenager posed on a shot, only to have the club slide through her hands as she realized the shot was off its mark.
 
'I know I'm a better player than this,' Wie said.
 
Par became a premium, but it was hardly a dull day. Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player seeking her first major, holed out for eagle from 195 yards in a bunker, only to have luck turn against her when a shot over the green bounced through two grandstands, across the road and out-of-bounds, leading to double bogey.
 
She was at even-par 71, along with Brittany Lincicome.
 
Laura Davies holed out for eagle on the eighth hole, but was 1 over through 14.
 
Ochoa and Morgan Pressel were full of smiles when they walked off Pine Needles at even par.
 
'I'm doing good so far,' Ochoa said. 'Playing in a U.S. Open, it's always good to be around par.'
 
She got there in the most peculiar fashion.
 
Ochoa was hitting fairways and greens, always a good recipe at this tournament, when she found a fairway bunker on the 14th and had 195 yards to the hole. She figured her caddie wanted her to hit 7-wood, but Ochoa wanted a 5-wood.
 
'I had a really good feeling,' she said. 'I said, 'Just trust me, I like this one.' And I hit it perfect.'
 
She heard the crowd cheer when it hit the green, and it got louder as the ball approached the cup, dropping for eagle.
 
'It was very special,' Ochoa said.
 
A good break turned into a rotten one on the 440-yard 17th, when Ochoa was one shot out of the lead. She hit a 7-wood that jumped out of the rough and sailed over the green. But instead of banging off the grandstand, it shot through the two sets of bleachers, bounding over the pine needles, crossing a small path and settling just beyond the out-of-bounds stakes.
 
'A little bit of bad luck,' Ochoa said. 'But nothing you can do, and I'm really happy with my round.'
 
Pressel was happy when she woke up, reached down to feel her ankle and felt no swelling. She was limping Wednesday from a spider bite, but there was that typical spring in her step at this championship, and she was steady as ever. She recovered from consecutive bogeys early in her round and was right where she wanted to be.
 
Wie, however, looked as though she wanted to be anywhere but Pine Needles. Even after she rapped in a 2-foot par putt for her 82nd stroke of the round, she barely mustered a smile.
 
It was similar to the 83 she shot in the third round at the LPGA Championship, where she finished in last place by 10 shots with her highest 72-hole score as an amateur or a pro. She played without a brace on her left wrist, and her injury seemed to be the least of her worries the way she slashed out of the Bermuda rough, often the case from hitting only four fairways.
 
'All I need is the confidence to play well,' she said. 'And I just need to see one round where all my shots are where I want them to be. Then after that, it's a done deal. I just need to see it.'
 
But she also seemed to be in denial that her game is in disrepair. It was her 21st consecutive round without breaking par against men or women, and tied her highest score in the U.S. Women's Open. She also shot 82 in the final round at Cherry Hills two years ago.
 
'It's very frustrating because I know I played better than this,' Wie said.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”