Wie Qualifies for US Womens Open
Thirteen-year-old Michelle Wie birdied the first hole of a playoff at a sectional qualifying event Monday, giving her one of the last bids to the upcoming major tournament.
She struggled early at the Country Club of Heathrow, north of Orlando, with three straight bogeys in her first six holes, but rallied with an even-par final round to reach the playoff.
'As she teed up, she said 'Let's make birdie so we can get out of here,'' said her father and caddie, B.J. Wie, a University of Hawaii professor. 'So, she made a birdie.'
The U.S. Women's Open will be played at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore., on July 3-6.
Also winning a berth in the playoff was 15-year-old Morgan Pressel.
Wie and Pressel, part of golf's growing wave of talent, were tied with Elisabeth Esteril at 5-over 147s after the 36-hole qualifier.
The three began the playoff with solid drives on a 369-yard par-4, an uphill dogleg left. Wie stuck a 6-iron from 160 yards within 4 feet of the pin.
'I didn't know I hit it that well,' said Wie, who had unsuccessfully tried twice before to qualify for the Open. 'I was just hoping to get it on the green, two-putt and, if someone missed or makes a mistake, then, oh well. But I hit it better than I expected.'
Esteril hit into a sand trap before Pressel knocked the ball into the fringe. Esteril couldn't make the sand save and Pressel two-putted for par, setting up Wie's putt as the clincher.
Wie said she entered the qualifier in Florida because it is close to her coach Gary Gilchrist, who works at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton.
'I had a feeling I was going to (qualify) because I make everything on my third try,' Wie said. 'I got to the Open on my third try, I got to the U.S. Juniors on my third try, I got to the U.S. Amateur on my third try.'
This will be the second major for Wie. At the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March, she shot a 6-under 66 to get into the final group Sunday before finishing ninth.
'She can win (the Open),' B.J. Wie said.
Pressel, two years ago the youngest player to ever qualify for the Open, was looking forward to Wie's presence at the major.
'It's a good thing. That takes a lot of pressure off my back,' she said.
The Open will be just one highlight of what promises to be a busy summer for Wie, nicknamed 'The Big Wiesy.' She's already agreed to compete against the men at the Nationwide Tour's Albertsons Boise Open, and the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players' Championship. There also will be some appearances on the LPGA Tour.
Despite Wie's gender and precocious age, her drives approach 300 yards -- but it was a poor short game that nearly doomed her in the qualifier.
On the par-3 4th, her tee shot missed the green and she pushed her par putt right. The next hole saw her miss a 3-foot putt for par and a 2-footer for par on No. 6 also missed. She later double-bogeyed No. 11 and waited until the final hole to collect her first birdie and finish at 5 over.
'I was pretty worried after my 76 because I wasn't hitting as well as I wanted to,' Wie said.
Wie's poor hitting, according to her father, could be blamed on her failure to compensate for the damp grounds caused by a morning shower.
'First round, her club selection was off -- mostly under-club,' B.J Wie said. 'She was lacking experience. She didn't realize that when you hit the ball in wet conditions, you lose about 10 yards.
'She didn't believe that; now, she believes that.'
The qualifier gave a glimpse into the future, as four of the six players to receive Open bids are teenagers.
'It's really great,' said Wie, who turns 14 in October, 'because I'm not that weird anymore.'
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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same
AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.
According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.
The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.
The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption
Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.
The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.
"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."
Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.
Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.
Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern
Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.
But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.
Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.
That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.
A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.
“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.
“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.
“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.
“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”
McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds
After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.
McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.
Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:
8/1: Tiger Woods
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas
14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose
16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm
18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman
50/1: Alex Noren
60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters
80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay
100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner