Wie Ready to Take on Men Again

By Associated PressJanuary 7, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Michelle Wie is starting to feel the stress.
She has been a professional golfer for three months and already is worth more than some men who have been playing longer than she has been alive, with endorsement deals that could reach $10 million and more than $1 million for an appearance fee to play overseas.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie will again be under intense scrutiny as she attempts to make her first cut on the PGA Tour.
She makes news wherever she goes.
In her professional debut at the Samsung World Championship, she was disqualified for taking a bad drop in the third round, an infraction that a magazine writer waited one day to point out to a rules official. Then at the Casio World Open in Japan, she bogeyed the last two holes to miss the cut by one shot.
But that's not what has her nerves a little frayed.
Like any other 16-year-old, Wie had to get through her semester exams in her junior year of high school.
'Oh my God, don't remind me,' Wie said earlier this week from Ko Olina Golf Club, where she took a break from studying to work on her golf game. 'I have to take my quarter tests and my semester exams.'
It started with a chapter test in Japanese on Tuesday. Chemistry and Japanese midterms, plus her quarterly test in math, came on Wednesday. The midterm for math was on Thursday.
And then comes another big test.
Wie will try for the fourth time to become the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make the cut on the PGA Tour when she joins 143 men at the Sony Open.
Her legend took root at Waialae Country Club two years ago at age 14 when she shot 68 in the second round -- the lowest score by a female competing on a men's tour -- to miss the cut by one shot. Last year brought wind and not nearly as many putts made, and Wie shot 75-74 to miss the cut by seven shots.
Then came the John Deere Classic, where thousands of boisterous fans thought they would witness history until Wie made double bogey on her 16th hole and again narrowly missed the cut.
There is a sense the novelty is wearing off, and there might come a time when Wie playing on the PGA Tour attracts only passing interest.
But people still talk about it.
They still watch.
'I was on the opposite side of the golf course, and there's nobody out there watching us play golf,' David Toms said of the John Deere Classic, where he tied for 40th that week. 'You knew where she was the whole time. It was almost like a Tiger-type following. You know where she was on the golf course. That says a lot. I don't think that wears off until that goes away for some reason. I just don't see that happening any time soon.'
Some see Wie as a work in progress, noting her steady improvement on the LPGA Tour (she finished in the top three in two majors last year) and how close she has come to making the cut against the men.
Others look at her trophy case, which has been empty since winning the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at age 13, making her the youngest winner of a USGA title with no age restrictions.
And there always will be those who wonder if Wie seriously thinks she can beat the guys.
'She's going to make a cut eventually,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'She's never going to win, period. Maybe once she makes a cut, she'll forget about it. Should she play in Hawaii? Sure. I don't have a problem with her playing there. That's where she's from. I think she should try to win some LPGA tournaments first and go from there.'
Wie embarks on what could be a fascinating season, her first full year as a pro. She has gone from making cuts to becoming a regular fixture on leaderboards on the LPGA Tour, with four top-three finishes in eight starts last year. She is adding even more length, and is capable of hitting shots few other women can imagine.
Swing coach David Leadbetter said Wie has been working with Paul Gagne, a physiologist who deals mostly with hockey players, to work on her upper-body strength. He believes a stronger Wie will lead to more length off the tee -- citing Annika Sorenstam as an example -- and allow her to get more balance in her swing.
She also is working on her putting, the one thing holding her back at this stage. It doesn't help that Wie lives in Hawaii, which has only one variety of grass on the greens.
'The thing she has over all the other girls is great shotmaking,' Leadbetter said. 'She can draw it, fade it, and around the green she has a tremendous variety of shots. Those girls are one dimensional. Obviously, that's why Annika enjoys playing with Tiger, because he helps her with the short game.'
Wie plans a practice round Tuesday with Sean O'Hair and Justin Rose, two other Leadbetter clients. Wie played the last two years with Ernie Els, picking up tips around the green.
'Playing PGA Tour events makes her better,' Leadbetter said. 'I think she gets psyched watching the guys and seeing their ability. It raises her level. It helps her up the ladder of improvement.'
Winning is the next step against the women.
Playing four days is the next step against the men.
'This is the third one (at the Sony Open), and they expect me to make the cut,' Wie said. 'I expect myself to play better, but I don't feel any extra pressure. I have a goal in mind -- consistent, under-par rounds. A lot can happen in two days. Hopefully, everything will come together.'
Her game steadily is improving. Her 6-foot frame -- she's been that tall since she was 13 -- is getting lean. The only noticeable difference is her age, although it still staggers some players on the PGA Tour that a teen not much older than their children can compete on such a stage.
'She's got a great talent,' Jim Furyk said. 'I can't think of a 16-year-old girl who can hit it like that. I'll go beyond that. I don't know too many 16-year-old boys that can go out there and play in a tour event, have that much composure, hit the ball that well. She's definitely one in a million, or one in a billion. That's going to attract attention.'
Whatever happens, another big test awaits.
On the Tuesday after the Sony Open, Wie goes for her driver's license.
'I haven't even learned to parallel park yet,' she said.
Related Links:
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next 8-12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

    Getty Images

    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”