Wie has Game Now Looks for Momentum

By Associated PressJanuary 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Seven birdies in a record-tying round of 68 sent Michelle Wie home from the Sony Open with a smile, although it wasn't long before reality set in as she considered her immediate future.
 
She had to spend her weekend writing a paper and cramming for a math exam on Monday.
 
What really bummed the 16-year-old out, though, was having to wait six weeks before she could play another tournament. Her father, B.J. Wie, said they have settled on the Fields Open in Hawaii, a new LPGA Tour event at Ko Olina Golf Club, which has become her home course.
 
It was a tough decision, because Wie tied for second in the SBS Open at Turtle Bay last year, and there is a strong connection with the Korean-based company. Then again, Wie has playing privileges at Ko Olina and the family is close friends with the resort owner.
 
'But if she plays both,' her father said, 'there's nothing left for us in the summer.'
 
Such is the dilemma facing Wie over her final two years of high school. She can sneak away from school four times a year to play golf, and she has all summer. But that means going more than a month at times without competition, keeping her from getting into tournament shape and staying there.

'Part of me wants to play every week,' Wie said. 'But a big part of me wants to stay at school, be normal. That's very important to me and my family for me to go to school. I'm very grateful for that. If there were more days, I would love to play week after week after week, because that's what I love to do.
 
'But I love to go to school. That's a part of my life I can't live without right now.'
 
The early part of the season has her playing the Fields Open from Feb. 23-25, then waiting five more weeks before she plays in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the LPGA season. And then it could be another five weeks before she tees it up again.
 
Sony and Nike, her two corporate sponsors, aren't pushing her to play more than about 12 times a year.
 
'That's tough, even when she's hitting it well,' swing coach David Leadbetter said. 'The momentum factor isn't there. That's going to be an issue until she finishes school. It's tough to play 12 tournaments a year and really get your game firing on all cylinders.'
 
Even in the summer, Wie is allowed only eight starts on the LPGA Tour -- six sponsor's exemptions, plus the Women's British Open and U.S. Women's Open, provided she qualifies.
 
B.J. Wie wishes there were a way she could play two more events, but isn't holding out hope. The options are to play overseas at the Casio World Open (where Wie received $1.5 million in appearance money last November) and a couple of more times on the PGA Tour, such as the John Deere Classic.
 
Meanwhile, skepticism mounts on the unique path she is taking.
 
'She's got to play more tournaments,' her father said. 'With all the criticism ... I know what they're saying. She's taking a spot in the field. It's a dilemma. But she needs the experience.'
 
Leadbetter has supervised a swing that has few flaws. Wie struggled in the opening round on her way to a 79, her highest score in eight rounds on the PGA Tour, but the mechanics never cease to impress. Playing with more freedom when it was clear she would not make the cut, Wie fired off five birdies in seven holes on her way to a 68.
 
That matched the 68 she shot in the second round at Waialae two years ago, the lowest score by a female competing on a men's tour. But this one was different.
 
Instead of making a series of long putts, Wie hit crisp irons that never strayed from the flag -- a 3-iron stinger into the wind to 15 feet on No. 11, a 9-iron to 8 feet on the 12th, a soft 7-iron that hit 2 feet behind the flag on No. 14.
 
There were the usual assortment of mistakes, and Wie struggles to make par when she's not in the fairway. What impressed her about Camilo Villegas, a dynamic rookie from Colombia, and big-hitting Chris Couch is how they could get into trouble off the tee and still make par or better.
 
That's part of the learning curve.
 
'We're never going to see what she's really capable of until she plays a bunch of tournaments in a row -- on different courses with different conditions -- on a regular basis,' Leadbetter said.
 
Putting remains the one element of her game that is holding her back, although Wie looked sharp Friday except for falling asleep on a 30-inch par putt for the second straight round.
 
Thursday afternoon, she finished her putting practice by sticking eight sets of three tees around the hole about 6 feet away, removing one tee each time she made the putt. Then her mother, Bo, sat cross-legged behind the cup as her daughter rapped in one 3-footer after another.
 
Some believe Wie would have been better off playing junior tournaments and learning to win, or at least staying on the LPGA Tour and learning to win against the best women.
 
Leadbetter argues that Wie hasn't given herself the best chance to win -- at least not yet.
 
'She doesn't play as many tournaments as other girls her age,' he said. 'I guarantee there's a lot of girls on the AJGA who play a heck of a lot more tournaments than Michelle does. But when you limit the number of tournaments you play, and you play the best men and women, your chances of winning are less.
 
'She can win with a half-set of clubs in her bag (on the AJGA). These girls are good, but this girl is special.'
 
Related Links:
  • Wie's Scorecard
  • Leaderboard - Sony Open in Hawaii
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open in Hawaii
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    Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

    Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

    “If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

    Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

    It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

    It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

    “I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

    It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

    Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

    That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

    That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

    A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

    Horschel told GolfChannel.com last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

    “I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

    “Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

    Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

    “I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

    Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

    With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

    Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

    Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

    Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

    “We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

    “We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

    Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

    “But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

    McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

    “They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

    The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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    Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

    It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

    At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

    And now?

    Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

    A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

    “Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

    That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

    On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

    It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

    Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

    There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

    And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

    That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

    “Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

    Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

    He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

    “I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

    Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

    For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

    The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

    Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

    “That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

    If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

    “It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

    It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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    Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

    By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

    U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

    Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

    The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

    This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

    "This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

    Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

    "I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

    The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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    Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

    By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

    The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

    But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

    "Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

    Hard to argue with the result.