Surprise Leader at McDonalds

By Associated PressJune 8, 2006, 4:00 pm
McDonaldHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- The buzz wasn't quite the same. The gallery was significantly smaller. About the only similarity between Michelle Wie trying to qualify for the U.S. Open and the Hawaii teenager at the LPGA Championship was her putting.
 
Whether it's Canoe Brook or Bulle Rock, the hole still looks awfully small.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie finished strong to stay within sight of the lead.
Three days after her putter doomed her hopes of a U.S. Open berth, Wie missed six putts inside 12 feet on the first eight holes Thursday. She was toward the bottom of the pack until birdies on three of the final four holes gave her a 1-under 71, leaving her seven shots behind Nicole Castrale.
 
'I think my putting is getting better,' she said.
 
Castrale used a late string of birdies on the closing holes for a different result. It helped her post a career-low 64, giving her a two-shot lead over Cristie Kerr and Pat Hurst.
 
Only about 750 people trudged over the hilly terrain of Bulle Rock to watch the 16-year-old Wie, much smaller than the estimated 3,500 who showed up at Canoe Brook in northern New Jersey for the U.S. Open sectional qualifier.
 
'What happened on Monday, you can't really see anywhere else,' Wie said. 'The crowds were very supportive today, even though it was not quite as huge as Monday. But they stayed until the end, so I was very happy.'
 
About the same amount watched Annika Sorenstam earlier in the day as the three-time defending champion struggled at times off the tee and around the green for a 71 that included four birdies and three bogeys.
 
'It kind of summarized my year a little bit, so I'm not surprised,' said Sorenstam, who has not won since her 2006 debut.
 
Sorenstam and Wie were among those tied for 41st on a day when 24 players shot in the 60s.
 
The group at 67 included South Korean rookie Seon Hwa Lee, coming off her first LPGA Tour victory last week at the ShopRite Classic, and Dorothy Delasin, who played with Wie. Karrie Webb, who won the first major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco, and Juli Inkster opened with 70s.
 
'It was out there,' Inkster said. 'If you were going to play well, today was the day.'
 
Indeed, it was Castrale's day.
 
She was injured in a car accident during her senior year at Southern California, which led to three surgeries on her rotator cuff. She won twice on the Futures Tour to earn a card in the big leagues, worked hard in the offseason then suffered an emotional jolt in February when Dick Harmon died.
 
Her coach is Bill Harmon, but she got to know his brother and worked with Dick on her short game. The Harmon brothers -- Bill, Butch, Craig and Dick -- got together for a golf school and good times in Palm Desert, Calif., earlier this year, and Castrale recalled playing nine holes on a Thursday afternoon as Dick Harmon and her husband watched.
 
The next morning, Harmon died of a heart attack.
 
'That came as such a shock,' Castrale said, her eyes welling with tears as she spoke. 'He has unbelievable touch around the greens, and he really took me in.'
 
Bill Harmon recalled the dinner he had with his brother before he died in which they talked about the 27-year-old Castrale, and how she had persevered through her injuries.
 
'He turned to me and said, 'I cannot believe what a good player she's become. She works so hard,'' Harmon said. 'A lesser person would have packed it in by now.'
 
Dick Harmon would have been proud of her Thursday, an overcast day with soft greens and not much wind, ideal for scoring. She picked up three of her birdies from inside 100 yards, including her string on the back nine. She chipped to 4 feet on the par-5 15th, hit a sand wedge to a foot on the next hole, and choked up on an 8-iron for an approach into 8 feet on the 18th.
 
Castrale started on No. 10, and she played her second nine solidly to keep bogeys off her card and make her a surprising leader in the second major championship of the year.
 
'I just had to stay patient, because I know I've been playing well and just not really scoring,' she said.
 
Wie needed all the patience she had.
 
Her week began Monday at Canoe Brook, where she missed six birdie putts inside 12 feet in her morning round of 68, then had consecutive three-putt bogeys in the afternoon that eliminated her hopes of becoming the first woman in the U.S. Open.
 
Three days later, not much changed.
 
She hit the ball with authority from tee to green, and the hole looked the size of a thimble when she stood over putts. She missed six putts inside 12 feet on the first eight holes, taking double bogey at No. 5 when she had an awkward lie in the rough off the tee, a bad lie in the rough around the green, and then three-putted from about 40 feet on the fringe.
 
Her three birdies came inside 3 feet, including a two-putt birdie on the 15th.
 
'The last four holes seemed like I was back to normal,' Wie said. 'So hopefully, tomorrow morning I can keep that going.'
 
Divots:
Paula Creamer played with her right wrist bandaged after an MRI showed sprained ligaments. She had consecutive bogeys to start her second nine, but rallied to shoot 71. ... Morgan Pressel, in her second event since graduating from high school, played with Sorenstam and was 1 under for her round until making bogeys on two of her last three holes for a 73. 'It was a mess,' she said. ... Christina Kim, who shot 67, used John Killeen as her caddie. Killeen normally works for two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon, who had to withdraw because of the flu.
 
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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.