Wie Wearing Out Welcome Mat
That's not likely to happen to Michelle Wie, a 14-year-old already blessed with poise, a 100-watt smile and a picture-perfect golf swing. Then again, the last thing a young girl with designs on playing the men's tour one day and already burdened by comparisons to Tiger Woods needs is a sense of entitlement.
Wie went through more sponsors exemptions in the past year - a handful on the LPGA Tour, two more on men's minor league tours - than Woods did during his entire amateur career. And if her plans for early next year are any indication, she and her handlers aren't worried about having the welcome mat pulled out from under her anytime soon.
Last week, in a scene that was more pomp than circumstance, Wie showed up in Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle's office to accept another free invitation, this time to play in the Sony Open. The first full-field event of the PGA Tour is being staged near the teenager's home in Honolulu, and motivated as much by economic development as player development, the governor even boasted about lobbying the title sponsor for the free pass.
'I believe this will bring added exposure to the tournament and to the state. Michelle brings a lot of pride to our people. Everybody knows I'm not a golfer,' Lingle said, 'but nobody is prouder than I am of Michelle.'
The governor then proved she wasn't a golfer by praising Wie for showing 'that she has the maturity and ability to hold her own' - which is only true up to a point.
Wie had what is best described as an eventful season. She became the youngest player to win a USGA title for adults in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and made the cut in six of the seven LPGA tournaments in which she competed. It was highlighted by a tie for the ninth in the season's first major, but marred by a run-in she and her father, B.J. Wie, had with veteran pro Danielle Ammaccapane over several breaches of etiquette at the U.S. Open.
Her outings with the men, however, weren't as memorable. Playing on sponsors' exemptions and from the same tees, Wie missed the cut on the Nationwide Tour's Boise Open and the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players Championship.
Wie had tried earning a spot in the Sony twice before in a one-day qualifying event and failed. Maybe that's why she didn't seem the least bit fazed by how it came about this time.
'I like the easy route,' she said. 'I know how hard it can be. It's a one-day deal, and anything can happen. I like this way better.'
By the end of this year, at least a half-dozen women will have played against the men on tours around the world. It began with Annika Sorenstam, who was looking for a personal challenge at the Colonial after wearing out the competition on her own tour, and the novelty has been wearing off steadily since. The only woman to actually earn her spot, teaching pro Suzy Whaley, did it by winning a PGA club pro sectional from a shorter set of tees and then, like Sorenstam, missed the cut at the Greater Hartford Open.
Not long ago, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked whether he expected the gender-blending to continue.
'I don't see a trend involved here where a lot of tournaments are going to want women golfers to play,' he replied. 'I frankly don't think there are many that add much to a tournament at this point in time.'
Sponsors can invite anyone they want, of course, and as Sorenstam proved over the objections of Vijay Singh, the exemption couldn't have been put to better use. Likewise, Wie's appearance at the Sony will help sell tickets and juice the TV ratings. Whether she will benefit nearly as much is a trickier question.
Even while doubting that women playing on his tour would catch on, Finchem allowed that Wie might be a special case. She already drives the ball as far as many PGA regulars. 'The question on everyone's mind,' the commissioner said, 'is how far can this young gal go?'
But if Wie's ultimate destination really is the PGA Tour, her education will be better served by making her earn a place instead of having a governor shill for it. Riding the wave of celebrity has its moments, but it won't teach her anything about her golf game.
Earl Woods chose his son's spots with great care for that reason. He believed the most important thing was learning how to win. Tiger accepted a few exemptions into pro events while still a teenager, but he won three U.S. Juniors and the same number of U.S. Amateurs before he was unleashed on the PGA Tour.
'I wasn't going to send Tiger out there until I knew he could beat those guys, and I wouldn't send him out there,' Earl said, 'until he knew he could beat those guys, too.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry