Waialae to be Wies Wonderland

By Associated PressJanuary 10, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Sony Open KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Like most other 14-year-old girls, Michelle Wie listens to underground music, watches the Disney Channel and loves to go shopping. Give her some good news, she bounces on her toes, taps her hands together and smiles wide enough to show her retainer.
 
Put her on the golf course, she doesn't act her age.
 
Not even close.
 
How many other ninth-grade girls can hit a golf ball 300 yards?
 
Tom Lehman played with her in a junior pro-am two years ago and thought her swing compared so favorably to Ernie Els that he called her the 'Big Wiesy.'
 
'She probably has one of the best golf swings I've ever seen, period,' Davis Love III said. 'She's got a lot going for her. Plus, she's tall and strong. No telling what she's going to do when she gets a little older.'
 
The PGA Tour is about to get a sneak preview.
 
Wie, who played in the final group of an LPGA Tour major last year and twice teed it up against the men on developmental tours, takes her awesome potential to the highest level this week when she plays in the Sony Open.
 
And she's not treating this like recess at Punahou School.
 
'It will be really sad if I mess up,' Wie said. 'I really want to make the cut, no matter what. Because I think I can. I think I should.'
 
A slender 6-footer, Wie looks older than her 14 years. She is believed to be the youngest player ever on the PGA Tour, and that's what makes her appearance at Waialae Country Club so compelling.
 
It's not just her gender -- Annika Sorenstam at the Colonial was the first woman in 58 years on the PGA Tour, and six other women played against the men last year.
 
It's her age.
 
While she is playing the Sony Open against Els, Love and Vijay Singh, her classmates at Punahou School will be taking their final exams (Wie took all her exams -- except Social Studies -- last week).
 
'I wanted to get a spot in the Greater Seattle Junior when I was 14,' Fred Couples said.
 
'Can you imagine?' Els said. 'I played my first British Open at 19, and I was way out of my place. Playing on tour at 14, it's a hell of an achievement.'
 
Not even Sorenstam can appreciate what Wie will face at the Sony Open.
 
Sorenstam already had won an NCAA title, more than 40 times on the LPGA Tour, four majors and played on four Solheim Cup teams when she accepted an invitation to the Colonial.
 
'I thought I had done everything, and it was tough,' Sorenstam said of the Colonial, where she missed the cut by five shots. 'If she's just going there to learn, she's going to learn a lot. She's jumping into the lion's pit, and she's got to deal with it.'
 
Unlike Sorenstam, who said the Colonial was a one-time challenge, Wie views the Sony as only the start.
 
She tried to Monday qualify for the Sony Open last year, but her 73 was off by six shots. For the last two years, she has talked about wanting to play both tours -- PGA and LPGA -- and some day in the Masters.
 
'If I keep on working, and keep improving every year, I think I can get that high,' she said.
 
The Sony Open gave her a sponsor's exemption after a whirlwind season.
 
Wie played seven times on the LPGA Tour, missing the cut only once. She missed the cut on the Canadian Tour and Nationwide Tour, and her only victory in any event came at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, making her the youngest winner of a USGA event for grown-ups.
 
She has big dreams for the Sony Open and her career.
 
'Keeping the goal high is our family policy,' said her father, B.J. Wie.
 
When she was 7 and just starting to play golf, her father asked Wie to watch the end of the '97 Masters, where Tiger Woods won by 12 shots.
 
'I saw him walk down the fairway of Augusta,' Wie said. 'My dad was a really big fan of Tiger. He'd say, 'Watch how he swings.' He put posters from Golf Digest all over my room. My whole room was filled with Tiger, Tiger. I get mad at my dad because my dad doesn't have a picture of ME in his wallet. He has two pictures of Tiger.'
 
B.J. Wie, a transportation professor at the University of Hawaii, pulled out his wallet and showed the only two pictures he carries. One of them is Woods at the top of his backswing, the other is Woods at the end of his swing.
 
'I show them to her all the time,' he said with a smile.
 
Wie already has had a Tigeresque career, minus the victories.
 
At age 10, she shot a 9-under-par 64 on her home course, Olomana Golf Links. Later that year, she became the youngest player to qualify for the Women's Amateur Public Links, losing in the first round.
 
In 2001, at the ripe age of 11, she advanced to the third round of the WAPL by beating current U.S. Women's Open champion Hilary Lunke.
 
For all her experience, one thing Wie doesn't have is a lot of victories.
 
That's what raises eyebrows among some PGA Tour players.
 
Woods met Wie for the first time during the pro-am round at the Mercedes Championships.
 
'I didn't realize she was taller than I am,' he cracked.
 
Woods thinks the experience will be invaluable, but there is no substitute for winning.
 
'I learned the art of winning,' Woods said. '(Phil) Mickelson did the same thing. He won at every level. When he came out here, he knew he could win. I felt the same way.'
 
Singh predicted stardom for Wie last year during the Pro-Junior event at the Sony Open. Then again, he had no idea she would be taking such big steps so quickly.
 
'You put young kids out there to learn how to win golf tournaments,' Singh said. 'For Michelle, she's not winning. It's always a negative when you don't win. She's not going to do that playing against the men.'
 
B.J. Wie considers the Sony Open an opportunity that cannot be ignored. His philosophy: The only way to get better is to play against the best.
 
He thinks his daughter can make the cut, and has nothing to lose.
 
'She's competing with PGA players, the best players in the world,' B.J. Wie said. 'If she doesn't make the cut, that's natural. She's competing with Ernie Els. There's no way she can beat Ernie Els. But she will meet the best players in the world, have a practice round with Ernie Els. What can you ask more than that?'
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.


Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.


Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.