Wies Master Plan
Then again, that was the plan all along.
The first golf tournament she watched on TV was Tiger Woods winning the 1997 Masters, about the time she was learning to play. Five years later, with braces on her teeth and baby fat in her 12-year-old cheeks, Wie stood behind the 18th green at Waialae County Club in Honolulu and shared her dream.
'I want to play in the Masters,' she said, rocking from heel-to-toe as seventh-graders are prone to do.
This brought nervous laughter to her father, not wanting his little girl to sound irreverent. But she had done her homework, and Wie proceeded to count the ways she could get invited to Augusta National -- win the U.S. Amateur or the U.S. Amateur Public Links, both men's tournaments.
'Or win a major,' she said, with just enough charm that no one was sure if she was kidding.
Turns out she wasn't.
'I remember the look on your face,' Wie recalled Tuesday afternoon at Sea Island Golf Club, where she is practicing with the U.S. Curtis Cup team. 'You were like, 'Uh-huh. I'll just write this down and forget it.''
Augusta National is still only a vision, but Wie now has the blueprints.
When the USGA decided to give the 14-year-old Hawaiian an exemption to the U.S. Women's Open -- the only amateur to get a free pass to the biggest tournament in women's golf -- it allowed Wie her first crack at the Masters.
Without the exemption, she would have had to qualify for the Women's Open. Now, she can go to Manada Golf Club in Hershey, Pa., and try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
It won't be easy.
A year ago, there were 87 players at Manada trying to earn two spots in the 156-man field that will gather at Rush Creek Golf Club in Minnesota in July for the Publinx. The top 64 qualify for match play, and then she would have to get through six matches to win the tournament and go to the Masters.
But it's a start.
'I really wanted to play in the Public Links this year, because I really want to play in the Masters,' Wie said. 'That's my dream. And I'm the kind of person where if I really want something, I just have to do it. If I accomplish that dream, golf is going to change. Because that will be the first woman to play in the Masters.
'Even though it's hard, and I'm going to have to practice really hard, I really want to achieve it.'
The odds of a 14-year-old girl winning the Publinx -- recent champions include Trevor Immelman and Tim Clark of South Africa -- are about as likely as a ninth-grade girl making the cut on the PGA Tour.
Some question why Wie got an exemption to the Women's Open in the first place. Those typically are reserved for women who have been playing the Women's Open since before Wie was born.
And the timing could not have been worse.
She is in Sea Island with seven other amateur stars, and this is the first year the USGA revoked Women's Open exemptions for Curtis Cup team members. Her roommate is Elizabeth Janangelo of Duke, who outplayed Wie at Pumpkin Ridge in the Women's Open last year but now will have to qualify.
Plus, Wie has won only one title of distinction -- the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, an event hardly anyone knew about until she won last year at Ocean Hammock in Florida to become the youngest winner of a USGA championship for adults.
What has she done to deserve this?
The youngest player to compete on the PGA Tour, she missed the cut at the Sony Open despite a 68 in the second round, the lowest score ever by a woman competing in a men's tournament. That left her at even-par 140, one shot from playing on the weekend.
Wie has played 10 times on the LPGA Tour the last two years and missed the cut only once. In three LPGA Tour events this year, she finished fourth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship -- a major -- and her worst finish is a tie for 19th in Atlanta. Had she been cashing checks, Wie would have earned enough money -- $131,130 -- to be 28th on the money list.
That's better than Laura Davies, Rachel Teske and Kelli Kuehne. Wie would have made more money per start than Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb. And because the top 35 are exempt to the Women's Open, USGA executive director David Fay saw it as a no-brainer.
'The Women's Open is not a sellout, but we expect results to be good,' Fay said. 'In the case of Wie, sure, we know she's a draw. But it was purely performance driven. She did this in three events. With the exception of Annika (Sorenstam), all the top players have competed in seven to nine tournaments.'
Wie offered no apologies for getting an exemption.
'I feel I did kind of deserve it,' she said. 'It's not like I missed every cut on the LPGA and then I got this exemption because I'm 14 years old. I did get in the top 40 on the money list.'
Told she would be 28th, defiance in her voice turned to girlish glee.
'Twenty-eighth? Really?' she said. 'How much money was I supposed to make? It was over $100,000 wasn't it? Do you know what I could have bought with that money? A red Ferrari. I could have driven that to school!'
What she really wants is to drive it down Magnolia Lane.
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Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda
Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:
Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.
At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd was loving it.
Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.
Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.
It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.
“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”
After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.
Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.
“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”
Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role
In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.
Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.
Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.
“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”
Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.
#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.
Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.
Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.
Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.
“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”
The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.
During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.
“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”
The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.
Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.
The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.
On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.
That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.
West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.
J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.
Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.
But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.
Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”
It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.