Spotlight on Wie and other rookies in SBS field

By Associated PressFebruary 11, 2009, 5:00 pm
2006 SBS OpenKAHUKU, Hawaii ' At nearly every turn at Turtle Bay, there are posters of Annika Sorenstam covered in leis, proudly celebrating the 70th of her 72 titles in her spectacular LPGA career.
 
With the 2008 SBS Open champion enjoying retirement, several youngsters are vying to make their mark, including a special class of so-called rookies.
 
The group includes Jiyai Shin, Stacy Lewis, Vicky Hurst and Michelle Wie, who was happy to be home, confident and looking for a fresh start to her career when play begins Thursday in the season-opening event.
 
These four rookies that we talk about headlining the rookie class, every single one of them feel capable of sweeping the LPGA, tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said. Theyre fearless. Theyre not typical rookies.
 
Wie appeared relaxed during her pro-am round Wednesday, joking with her caddie, signing autographs and comfortably crushing drives like in years past.
 
I feel like its a whole new beginning for me. Its a completely new slate, Wie said. Im not going to think about the past and not even going to think too much of the future. Im just really excited for this week, for tomorrow, and Im just going to think about what I can do best for each moment.
 
While the rookies have all made a name for themselves through winning on different levels, none of them come close to having the endorsement deals, bank account and fame of Wie, who for years has been looking to add to her trophy case.
 
Wie, who first played an LPGA event at age 12, is trying to change that and said shes been working on her game constantly.
 
The games a funny thing. One day it feels really good and other days you have to work hard on it, she said. But Ive been working on it really hard So hopefully my games a lot better than it was, ever before. Im really excited to show that.
 
Wie said the rookies are all unique in their own way with different histories, but she realizes the competition is getting stiffer. She is surrounded by young up-and-coming stars.
 
The 20-year-old Shin, who was referred to by a member of the Korean media as super rookie, is coming off a phenomenal year where she became the first non-LPGA member to win three events. Shins victories include the Womens British Open and the season-ending ADT Championship. She also has 20 titles on the Korea LPGA.
 
Lewis, who turns 24 next week, is the oldest of the four rookies. The Q-school winner turned pro in June and competed in seven LPGA events. She had two top-10 finishes, including a tie for third in the U.S. Womens Open. Before turning pro, she went 5-0 in the Curtis Cup last summer and also starred at the University of Arkansas, where she won 12 events and was the 2007 NCAA champion.
 
Hurst dominated the Duramed Futures Tour last season, winning five times in 13 starts to earn rookie and player of the year honors.
 
The 18-year-old Hurst, from Melbourne, Fla., said she feels no resentment at all toward Wie.
 
I just try to stay focused with my plan and my goals and stay focused on what I want to achieve this week and this year, Hurst said. Weve all taken different paths, all the rookies this year. I think you can never say whos done it better.
 
Hurst said shes now competing on a whole new level, but shes just trying to keep the attitude that she made it here just like everyone else.
 
Im going in with an open mind, seeing how the first tournament goes and then take it from there, Hurst said. Probably previous years when I played LPGA events it was more intimidating, but now that Im out here, this is my new family.
 
The SBS marks Wies first event as a full-fledged member of the LPGA. It also is her first LPGA start since July when she was disqualified from the State Farm Classic, one shot behind going into the final round, when it was determined she left the scoring area without signing her card after the second round.
 
She also opened 2008 in Hawaii at the Fields Open, where she closed with a 6-over 78 to tie for last among the 74 players who made the cut.
 
She played the first SBS in 2005 as a 15-year-old amateur and tied for second at Turtle Bay with Cristie Kerr, two strokes behind winner Jennifer Rosales. Wie was the lone amateur in the field and the only player to shoot under par for three rounds.
 
It also was at Turtle Bay in 2006 that she became the first female to win a local qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open. She earned the first of three spots into the sectionals.
 
Then came wrist injuries in 2007 that shook her confidence and her promising game. But she ended 2008 at Q-school on a high note, where she earned her LPGA card.
 
I guess its the home factor. I just play well (here), said Wie, who grew up about an hour-drive away.
 
Besides the talented rookies, there are several seasoned veterans like 2007 champion Paula Creamer, who finished second on the money list behind top-ranked Lorena Ochoa last year after winning four events.
 
Its hard to believe. Im 22 and considered a veteran now, Creamer said.
 
Yani Tseng, the 2008 rookie of the year and LPGA Championship winner, also is entered. A year ago at Turtle Bay, Tseng was ranked 133rd in the world. Today, shes No. 2.
 
The SBS is the first of 30 events on the LPGA Tour this year, down from 34 in 2008. The loss of the four events represents nearly $10 million in prize money being erased.
 
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.