Wie Trying to Make History at US Open

By Associated PressJune 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
Michelle Wie has played eight tournaments against men, starting at age 13. She shot a 68 in her PGA Tour debut when she was in the ninth grade, and she kept golf fans riveted by reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links last summer in her long-shot bid to get into the Masters.
Wie's Shot-by-Shot Scorecard
None of those moments has ramped up the hype over the 16-year-old from Hawaii quite like this.
Wie isn't trying to make the cut Monday at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J. She's trying to make history.
Wie, who just finished her junior year at Punahou School in Honolulu, is among 153 players trying to get 18 spots available for the U.S. Open, which would make her the first female to compete in any major championship.
No one doubts she is capable, although it likely will take two of her best rounds. But the mere prospect of her teeing it up alongside Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els at Winged Foot has drawn media interest from around the world, far more than for anything she has done in a short but entertaining career.
Wie said she didn't feel any differently now than when she first played on the PGA Tour in the '04 Sony Open, where her 68 remains the best score ever by a female competing on a men's tour.
'They're both challenging,' she said.
The odds of her finishing in the top 18 after 36 holes at Canoe Brook depend on how you look at it.
Wie's career-best on the PGA Tour is 2 under par, both times at Waialae Country Club where she often plays. The cutoff for getting into the U.S. Open last year at the Canoe Brook qualifier was 3-under 139. Two years ago, when the New Jersey club hosted one of the larger sectional qualifiers, the 22nd and final spot went to Scott Hend at 140.
The field includes 135 professionals, four dozen of them members of the PGA Tour. Two of them are major champions (Mark O'Meara and Mark Brooks), while another is No. 10 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings (Vaughn Taylor).
Wie has never made the cut - top 70 and ties - on the PGA Tour. The closest she came was in 2004 at the Sony Open, when she missed by one shot after shooting 68 in the second round.
Now, she has to finish in the top 18.
'I'd be very surprised if she got through,' Brooks said. 'You've got to play better than just making the cut on tour to qualify, usually. If you went over there and looked at those two courses and said, 'What would the tour shoot here?' If you figure the cut would be 3 under, you'd better shoot 4 or 5 under.'
Wie plays at 8:35 a.m. EDT Monday on the South Course, a par 70 at 6,632 yards. She will be the last to tee off in the second 18 holes on the North Course, which plays at 7,066 yards as a par 72. She will be paired with David Gossett, a former PGA Tour winner who has lost his status because of a deep slump, and Rick Hartmann, a club pro from Long Island who qualified for the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Despite the presence of so many PGA Tour players, the circumstances are different from a regular tour event.
'Some are annoyed that they even have to be there,' USGA executive director David Fay said. 'You have a couple of bad holes and who knows? That's one way of approaching it. The other thinking is to compare her not with the PGA Tour players, but the non-tour players. Each year, a small number of them make it. She only has to be one of them.'
Two years ago, when there were 22 spots available at Canoe Brook, a half-dozen players who qualified weren't on the PGA Tour.
'I don't know what the odds are, but if she plays good, I think she's in,' said Sean O'Hair, who played a practice round with Wie at Waialae in January.
Wie made it through 18-hole local qualifying last month at Turtle Bay in Hawaii, another course she knows well. Some of the PGA Tour players, such as Brooks, Taylor and J.J. Taylor, were playing the final round Sunday at the Memorial in Ohio. They had to fly to New Jersey and be ready to tee it up Monday morning.
Wie arrived at Canoe Brook on Thursday and has been practicing every day. Her swing coach, David Leadbetter, arrived from Florida and has been fine-tuning her swing to keep it simple.
The intangible is how Wie performs for the crowd, from those in the gallery to those with cameras and notepads. She is comfortable in the spotlight and has a knack for making news. She played in the final group of her first LPGA major when she was 13, and had a chance to win the Kraft Nabisco this year until her eagle chip on the 18th hole ran 10 feet by and she missed the birdie putt to get into a playoff.
Even in her professional debut last October, she stole headlines when she was disqualified over a bad drop.
Els had his doubts about Wie until they played a practice round together in 2004 at the Sony Open. He said that day he never would have imagined a female having the talent or even getting the opportunity to play with the best in the world. 'Give her another couple of years to get stronger,' he said.
Now, Els is just as curious as anyone else.
'You've got to give her credit,' he said. 'She's 16, she's really coming on nicely now. At least this one she's qualifying for; she's not taking a spot from anybody. She's doing all the right things, and hopefully, she makes it.'
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.