Wie Part of Dream Teens at Curtis Cup
After one practice round, 17-year-old Jane Park slid behind a piano and belted out Disney songs from 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Aladdin,' as 14-year-old Michelle Wie stood behind her and twirled to the tunes.
They giggled and gossiped at night. The players strutted through the quaint downtown after dinner. They squealed during walks on the beach while daring each other to poke jellyfish that had washed ashore.
'Way too disgusting for me,' Wie said.
Never have three high school students - Wie, Park and Paula Creamer - been on one Curtis Cup team. Never has the eight-woman team of amateurs failed to include anyone over age 25.
And never has so much focus been on one player.
Wie, the youngest of them all, generates so much hype that the Curtis Cup has never received this much attention.
Some 6,000 fans are expected June 12-13 at Formby Golf Club in England, where the United States will try to retain the only cup it owns outright. Europe and British teams already have the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and Walker Cup, while the Presidents Cup ended in a tie.
For most of the English fans, it will be their first chance to see a 6-foot, ninth-grader from Hawaii who has twice contended for majors on the LPGA Tour and came within one shot of making the cut on the PGA Tour.
Wie commands a presence, which U.S. captain Martha Wilkinson Kirouac sees as a blessing and a curse.
'I'd like to get to the point of being a team of eight,' she said. 'I think we'll get there.'
Kirouac, 54, has some experience with youth and star power.
She played on the 1972 Curtis Cup with 16-year-old Laura Baugh, at the time the youngest player in Curtis Cup history. Also on that team was 18-year-old Hollis Stacy, who went on to win three U.S. Women's Open.
'It was a little bit of a challenge because we had two very young players,' Kirouac said. 'The difference was, you had somebody there who had previous Curtis Cup experience. You had people to create a mentoring role.'
She doesn't have that luxury with this team.
The oldest player is 22-year-old Sarah Huarte of Cal, who just won the NCAA title. Five others are teenagers, although two of them are in college (Brittany Lang of Duke and Erica Blasberg of Arizona).
Kirouac was worried about having so many young players until she watched them performed. Now, her concern has shifted to her biggest star.
All the Curtis Cup players have solid credentials. None has the Q-rating of Wie. None know what it's like to live in a fish bowl. None has ever played before the kind of galleries Wie routinely attracts.
'I want somebody who can help her, influence her, but somebody who is self-assured living in the shadow of Michelle,' Kirouac said. 'And there will be a shadow.'
The four-day practice session at Sea Island got off to a rocky start.
As Kirouac tried to make Wie one of the girls, the USGA announced that Wie had received an exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open. Making the timing even worse, this is the first year that all Curtis Cup players do not get a free pass to the biggest event in women's golf.
Kirouac told the rest of the team before Wie arrived from Hawaii.
'I wanted them to have a chance to come to grips with it,' she said. 'Have I got some disappointed players? You bet. Have they got a right to be disappointed? You bet.'
The most sticky situation was Creamer, a 17-year-old with one year left in high school and one of the most accomplished American Junior Golf Association players ever. A tall blonde from Pleasanton, Calif., she already has developed a rivalry with Wie, even though Wie doesn't play AJGA events.
'I play with tons of junior golfers over the summer, and she's just another junior golfer,' Creamer said last year at the U.S. Women's Open, after posting a better score while playing with Wie in the final stage of qualifying. 'I don't really see her as someone beyond me. I've played her twice and beat her both times.'
Kirouac put Creamer and Wie together the first day of practice, and every time she drove by in a cart, both teenagers lit up the course with dynamic smiles.
Halfway through their training camp, everyone was geared toward the same goal: winning the Curtis Cup.
As Creamer headed to the shops at Sea Island, Wie called out in a singsong voice, 'Have fun. Bye, princess.'
Both girls cracked up laughing.
'We're very close now,' Creamer said. 'There's going to be that rivalry on the golf course because everyone is competitive. But I do consider her one of my close friends. We're going to be seeing a lot of each other.'
While the Americans have gelled nicely, the perception is different across the Atlantic.
GB&I captain Ada O'Sullivan made no secret about using Wie as a motivational tool for her team.
'There hasn't been a lot of talk amongst the girls about Michelle Wie,' O'Sullivan told Golfweek magazine. 'It's me who has been bringing it up to them. She is my reverse trump card. I've been saying to them, 'Who would not like to play against Michelle Wie? And they have all said they would relish the chance to play against her.'
It is reminiscent of Gary Wolstenholme, a short-hitting amateur from England, beating Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup. A two-time British Amateur champion, Wolstenholme is best known for that moment.
But this American team is more than one player, and Kirouac said she would not hesitate to sit Wie in a singles match the first day. The format calls for three alternate-shot and six singles matches both days.
'They look at this team like this,' she said, holding her arms up in the shape of a tower. 'They think if they can knock Michelle off, this whole team will crumble. They think without Michelle, we're nothing. They don't understand our depth. Michelle is like a shield out front, drawing all that flak. Everyone else is playing in relative anonymity behind her, but playing very, very well.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.