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
  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes