Wies Future Still Up in the Air
She returned to the ninth grade at Punahou School in Honolulu, back to studying math and history instead of the break in the slick greens at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
She could have told her friends that she finished fourth in the first major of the year and was within two shots of the lead at one point Sunday. If they found that boring, Wie could have mentioned the $96,000 she turned down at two tournaments ' enough to be ninth on the LPGA Tour money list ' to remain an amateur.
Meanwhile, her father was busy sending an e-mail to decline a sponsors exemption for his 14-year-old daughter to play a PGA Tour event this summer. B.J. Wie declined to say which one.
The future has never looked brighter or been filled with so many questions.
By now, there should be no doubt the 6-foot teenager with a penchant for shopping is the biggest golf prodigy since Tiger Woods.
Figuring out where it leads ' and how soon she gets there ' remains a work in progress.
Wie played in the final group of an LPGA major championship as a 13-year-old. A year later, she shot 68 on the PGA Tour and missed the cut by a single shot, then returned to the Nabisco and was in contention from start to finish until she ended up alone in fourth, four shots out of the lead.
She says she wants to go to college ' but thats still four years away.
Her father says he is comfortable with the LPGA Tours age limit of 18, but what happens if Wie were to win a tournament? What if its the U.S. Womens Open, the richest prize in womens golf worth $558,000?
B.J. Wie considered the future while watching his daughter blend in with the best on the LPGA Tour ' taller than most of them, longer than all of them.
Michelle is really interested in going to Stanford, he said March 30. But were looking at alternatives, based on her desire to attend college.
One scenario: She goes to Stanford and plays for the Cardinal. The only thing left to decide is whether she competes for the mens team or the womens team.
Another scenario: She goes to college and plays the LPGA Tour in her spare time.
This is a new route that could be a good example for other young players, B.J. Wie said.
Another possibility ' the one that seems most realistic ' is for Wie to petition LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw to turn pro before her 18th birthday.
The precedent is Aree Song, who has a lot in common with Wie.
Song ' previously known as Wonglukiet ' was 13 when she played in the final group at Nabisco four years ago. She played on the Futures Tour as an amateur, finished fifth at the U.S. Womens Open last year and signed with Florida before deciding to go through LPGA Q-school last fall.
There could be nothing better you can do, Song said, referring to her career. It certainly beats school.
Song, who turns 18 in May, had a chance to win her first major as a pro by making a 30-foot eagle on the final hole. She came up one shot short when Grace Park ' comparatively over-the-hill at 25 ' made a 6-foot birdie to win.
Aree made the right decision for her and her family, B.J. Wie said. And Ty made the right decision. Physically and mentally, she is a very good player.
Even so, B.J. Wie insists this is not the path for his daughter.
He is finishing a sabbatical from the University of Hawaii, where he is a transportation professor, and one can only suspect the bills are mounting ' caddies, lodging, food, and a summer that will keep them on the road for three months.
Equipment companies already are showing up, and the money offered when Wie turns pro probably will be more than anyone else gets in womens golf.
Her father, however, has more than golf in mind.
Its highly unlikely that Michelle turns pro without attending college, he said. She thinks college is really good for her. She believes she needs a transition period, departing from us, doing chores like laundry, cooking for herself. She likes to be more independent.
The future seems so far away, especially since Wie is still in the ninth grade.
Then she shoots 72-68 at the Sony Open ' better than Adam Scott that week ' and is among the leaders in the final round of an LPGA major for the second year in a row, and the future looks like tomorrow.
Wie already has a full plate after school gets out.
She has Curtis Cup practice at Sea Island, Ga., on May 22, a week practicing in Orlando, Fla., then off to the amateur matches in England. When thats over, Wie comes back to Virginia to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open one week, and defend her title in the U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links the next week.
The U.S. Womens Open follows that, and then there is a trip to Paris for the Evian Masters.
She already has a schedule like a pro.
The question is how much longer before Wie starts making regular trips to the bank.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.