Let Michelle Mania Begin
Specifically, the Booz Allen Classic is poised to offer the 14-year-old Wie a sponsors exemption for its tournament June 24-27 at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md.
None of this should come as a surprise, despite the fact that many people still havent figured out what the best mens tour in the world is doing extending invitations to girls. Fact is, the 6-foot Wie doesnt play like a girl. Or a boy, for that matter. She plays like an adult. Last week she shot 72-68 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and missed the cut by one shot. She also generated millions of dollars of free publicity for the tournament, the tour and the title sponsor.
From a sponsors perspective, this is exactly what youre looking for, John Kaczkowski told me late Monday. You get increased newspaper coverage and increased television coverage. Kaczkowski is the tournament director for the Cialis Western Open.
Another tournament director told me Monday he would be shocked if Wie didnt receive more sponsors exemption invites for PGA Tour events before the season ends. The first of them is expected to come as soon as Kemper Sports, the company that manages Booz Allens tournament, meets with Wie and her father in Hawaii.
B.J. Wie told me Tuesday he hadnt heard from the Kemper Sports people. He pointed out that the Booz Allen Classic dates conflict with the Womens Amateur Public Links Championship where Michelle Wie is the defending champion. B.J. Wie said his daughter has forged a very close relationship with Rhonda Glenn and Barbara Romack, two women instrumental in the staging of the WAPL.
They (Romack and Glenn) would be very disappointed if Michelle didnt play in their tournament, the father said. I dont think she will disappoint them.
But, he added, the final decision will be Michelles. PGA Tour rules allow a player to accept up to seven sponsors exemptions in a season. B.J. Wie already has said his daughter will accept the limit of six LPGA sponsors exemptions this year.
The gold rush is on. Everybodys trying to stake a claim on Michelle Wie. Michelle Mania.
As one tournament director put it, Michelles got Annikas game and Suzys smile. Annika Sorenstam, the best woman golfer in the world, played in the mens Bank of America Colonial in May. Suzy Whaley, a club pro, played in the mens Buick Championship last year. Both missed the cut.
Dan Baker, tournament director for the Buick Championship, said his tournament has a standing policy that it will only extend sponsors exemptions to players that request them. But, he added, If she applied, wed have to take it under consideration.
Judy McDermott, the tournament director for the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, warned of a circus atmosphere that could follow Wie. But if this will make more little kids pick up golf clubs, McDermott said, more power to her. Its a neat story that way.
Its a neat story. Its a big story. And its growing.
Tuesday Peter Dawson, the Royal & Ancient secretary, told Reuters that he would never say never about a possible change in the R&As long-standing policy of prohibiting women from playing in the British Open Championship.
We would be very unwise not to review our entry criteria over the years ahead, he said.
Heres my take on all of this: For the people who have been searching for the next Tiger Woods, they may have been looking in the wrong locker room. But, more importantly, to all those people who are saying Wies emergence will open the floodgates for more like her, its time to back way off.
There is only one Michael Jordan. There is only one Woods. Its appearing a little more each day that there might just be one Michelle Wie.
We should enjoy her. And we must be careful to allow her to enjoy herself.
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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.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."