Wies Journey to Superstardom Began with a Victory
Not a bad first step on the path to superstardom.
The 6-foot prodigy takes the next step in her unprecedented journey Wednesday, six days before turning 16. That's when she turns professional and becomes the richest female golfer in the world with multimillion dollar endorsements.
At age 11, Wie became the youngest winner of the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational, beating defending champion Bobbi Kokx by nine strokes.
``I still joke that I think I could've taken her when she was 9,'' said Kokx, a former player and coach at the University of Hawaii. ``If you're going to come second to someone, why not Michelle Wie?''
Wie's golf instructor at the time, Casey Nakama, said he realized Wie's potential during that tournament.
``That's when we knew there was going to be something special here, at 11 years old,'' he said.
Special may be an understatement.
In just four years, Wie has already left her mark on the sport, proving she can play with the best in the world -- regardless of her age and gender.
``I'm dumbfounded by how she's taken the golf world,'' Nakama said.
A press conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. HST from the Kahala Mandarin Oriental resort, a short drive away from Wie's home and Punahou School, where she will attend classes after the announcement.
``When I watch this thing on TV, absolutely, I'll feel lucky we were part of this whole thing,'' Nakama said.
He remembers when a well-mannered 9-year-old who had ambitions of becoming a tournament player enrolled at his school at Olomana Golf Links.
``She was just an average junior,'' Nakama said. ``She was tall for her age, but she didn't have extraordinary ability at that time.''
That soon changed.
Wie devoted most of her free time to practicing -- at least three hours a day after school and seven to eight hours every weekend.
``I've had a lot of juniors that had similar abilities, but none of them had the same drive as she did. I think that's the difference,'' Nakama said.
With her big, smooth, effortless swing, Wie was quickly outdriving older girls, not to mention many men. After a couple years, Nakama introduced punch shots into the wind, hooks and fades.
``Normally, I have girls that can do that in high school and college -- but not at 11 or 12 years old,'' he said.
There was also another startling moment for Nakama at the 2002 Takefuji Classic, where 12-year-old Wie became the youngest player to earn a spot in an LPGA Tour event through a qualifier.
Wie was on the driving range comparing her shots, which were measuring up with the pros -- including Annika Sorenstam's. ``At that point, I knew it was just a matter of experience,'' he said.
The Takefuji was the first of many pro events to come for Wie. She has played 24 times on the LPGA Tour, and hasn't missed a cut in the last two years.
She was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Sorenstam in June, and tied for third at the Women's British Open in July. Both are majors on the LPGA Tour.
Had she taken prize money this year, Wie would have earned $640,870, enough to be 12th on the LPGA money list in just seven tournaments.
Wie has competed five times against the men, without making a cut -- three on the PGA Tour, once on the Nationwide Tour and once on the Canadian Tour.
Kokx, who was paired with Wie on the final day of the Jennie K., said she was impressed with the youngster's power, raw talent, focus, knowledge of the game and maturity, even at 11.
``What probably surprised me the most was her composure for the three days,'' said Kokx, who has played in four local tournaments with Wie. ``It was just really exciting to see someone that good play.''
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Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.