Wie An Unfinished Portrait

By Associated PressJanuary 12, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Michelle Wie is unlike any other.
She is a grizzled veteran at age 15, having competed on professional tours at least once every year since 2002, when she was in the seventh grade, had braces and was only hitting her drives 280 yards.
Wie looked relaxed Tuesday morning, casually greeting Kirk Triplett on the range at Waialae Country Club, then heading to the 10th tee for a practice round with Ernie Els as if it was just another day, although certainly not the typical day of a high school sophomore.
But the expectations are higher than ever, and criticism is starting to mount.
No one disputes that her potential is unlimited, but the focus is shifting to a trophy case that is collecting dust.
There is an art form to winning, and learning how to win different ways, Tiger Woods said last week. Learning how to win when youre dominating, learning how to win when you dont have anything at all. Theres so many different ways you can win a golf tournament. I think Ive gone through all of that, so Ive learned.
And it served me very well once I got out here.
It was the same philosophy Woods spoke about last year, but this time he added a caveat.
What shes doing might hurt her, he said. But in the end, she might be so talented she might just win everything. And it might be a new way of doing it.
Thats something to keep in mind this week when Wie plays in the Sony Open.
The portrait is far from finished.
A year ago, Wie birdied two of the last three holes in the second round for a 68, the lowest score by a female of any age competing on a mens tour. She finished at even-par 140, which was better than 47 other men at the Sony Open but still one shot short of making the cut.
Her goal is to play on the weekend at Waialae. If everything goes perfectly'and thats about what had to happen for her to shoot 68 last year'the ultimate would be to finish in the top 20. Told that would mean finishing ahead of 124 players, she smiled and said, That would be really cool.
Maybe it was just a coincidence that Wie played Tuesday with Els and Justin Rose, who turned pro after tying for fourth in the 1998 British Open, then missed his first 21 cuts as a professional.
It would not be a failure if Wie missed the cut, or even finished dead last at the Sony Open.
Wie remains a work in progress, and progress is hard to measure when her road is unlike any other.
Normal reporters look at consequences, said her father, B.J. Wie. We look at the process.
The only trophy Wie held last year was the Curtis Cup, shared by seven other amateur women. She failed to defend her title at the U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links, and lost in the second round at the Womens Amateur.
Wie has heard the whispers about winning, and questions about her strategy to play against the very best competition instead of trying to beat kids her own age.
Some are so ridiculous I actually laughed, she said. Im actually grateful, because those words made me practice harder. If I didnt read them, I might just sit back and not practice.
Measure her by the professional events, and the outlook changes.
Wie tied for fourth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, up from a tie for ninth the previous year in the LPGAs first major championship. She tied for 13th at the U.S. Womens Open, up for a tie for 39th. She made the cut in all seven LPGA events, only finishing out of the top 20th once.
For her, winning is not the true test of progress, said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. If you look at Michelle, shes maturing as a person, shes physically stronger, she has more variety of shots. She categorically is a better player. But that doesnt always compute that she will do just as well in any one tournament.
A lot is expected of her, and shes really handling it well, he said. Shes very confident of her own ability. Shes got a plan in her mind of what shes trying to do. This route has not been taken. Shes sort of a pioneer.
She took the Sony Open route last year, and it was no surprise the tournament offered her another exemption. Ticket sales spiked by some 20 percent, and Wie remains a big attraction in a field that includes Els, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen.
Still, her father was nervous when the invitation became official.
I couldnt sleep well because I was worried about her performance, B.J. Wie said. Her 2004 performance was very excellent. But its hard to make the second movie as successful as the first one. Michelle told me, Dad, dont worry. Im not interested in making the cut, Im interested in the top 20. Im the only choker in my family. My wife and Michelle are very aggressive.
Its not a normal way to think, he said. But she proves to me many times that shes not normal.
Wie is not taking the normal route'not the one taken by Woods, or even Venus and Serena Williams, whose father kept them out of the top tennis circuits until they were ready.
Perhaps, as Woods suggested, she is blazing a new path.
It will be mentioned many times this week, but is worth repeating.
She is only 15.
And thats years away from anyone being able to judge whether she is doing the right thing.
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”