Looking into Wies Near Future
When Michelle Wie turns 16 in October, will she turn pro on the same day she becomes eligible to drive a car?
The pieces, bit by bit, are starting to come into focus more clearly. There is nothing official yet from the Wie camp or the myriad of manufacturers and management companies who covet her signature.
But more and more its looking like the Samsung World Championship Oct. 13-16 will be her official Hello World coming out party. A Hawaii newspaper openly speculated as much the day after Wie missed the cut at the recent John Deere Classic. And B.J. Wie, Michelles father, didnt knock down the story at that time.
LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw told me last week that it wouldnt shock him if Wie turned professional and did NOT petition for membership to the LPGA.
Wie insiders say she can play up to eight events a year on the LPGA Tour without membership. Toss in another seven on the PGA Tour through special exemptions and the schedule starts to fill up quite nicely. As a pro, Wie would also be able to accept appearance fee money for overseas events. Yen, for example, converts quite nicely to dollars thank you very much.
Not being tied down to the LPGA or the PGA tours would give Wie the flexibility to control her own schedule in the immediate and intermediate future.
More recently Golfweek magazine speculated that Nike Golf will sign Wie and that IMG is a leading candidate to be her management firm. Golfweek, too, noted October and the Samsung event, which will be played at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., as a likely time and place.
These scenarios also allow Wie to stay in school if she so chooses. She is scheduled to begin her junior year at the Punahou School in Hawaii. She has stated she eventually wants to attend Stanford University.
One source told me there was a deal cooking where Wie would play professionally 15 events a year as a college student and practice with the Stanford team as a non-member. There is even a scenario out there in which she would sign a deal with a company that would provide 300 hours a year of private jet time.
Its all very heady stuff. And B. J. Wie is a very heady man. He knows the commercial iron is hot and there has never been a better time to strike on the endorsement front.
But B.J. and his wife, Bo, are also good parents. I take both of them at their word when they say they wont commit their daughter to anything she isnt totally on board with.
The international interest in Michelle Wie, at the moment, transcends golf. If this were a perfect world, heres what Id like to see happen with regards to Michelle:
Id like to see her sit down privately with Tiger Woods and ask him all the questions she can think of and a few more to boot. Then I would like to see Tiger give her his opinion of her future.
Nobody in golf knows better what lies ahead for Michelle Wie.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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.