Moving the Needles

By Brian HewittDecember 5, 2008, 5:00 pm
The Comebackers feedbackers this week are all over Michelle Wies quest for her LPGA card. And not all of that feedback is nice.
Without further ado:

Mike writes:Perhaps if Wie hadn't been so focused on beating the men she could've concentrated on beating the women.
The Comebacker

Doug writes:Please tell me the reason the Golf Channel pays so much attention to this girl. She is not an above average player and she did not perform well in 08, so what is the fascination? I run a golf shop and have gotten sick over the hourly updates on her performance when there are some past winners and up-and-coming players who actually had a fair 08 but just not good enough. The record and performance she has given since playing (as a) pro has not been worth all the attention. She is receiving the type of attention if Annika (Sorenstam)had to go thru Q-(S)chool to play next year and she is not worthy of polishing Annikas shoes.
The Comebacker Doug, with all due respect, you need to get out of the shop once in a while. To say Michelle Wie is not above average is an insult she does not deserve. And shes received plenty of insults the last couple of years.

Tom writes:Well, here we go again, Brian. It seems that the LPGA is ready to fold at any moment, and, somehow, Michelle Wie is the only one who can save it. Michelle Wie suffers from bad judgment and bad management, and the LPGA can do nicely without her. She turned pro too soon, especially if she intended to go to college. She lost more than she gained with that one. Whos guiding her? If its (David) Leadbetter, he should stick to trying to teach her how to play the game. As for Michelle, she needs to decide if its going to be professional golf or Stanford, because those are the only choices she has now. Personally, I would like to see her out on the tour, but only if she is going to be a full-time player. She possesses all of the physical talent to be one of the best to ever play the game, so why isnt she doing that? Last year was such a disaster that I didnt know if she would ever gain enough confidence to compete at the LPGA level again. Anyway, thanks for another amusing column.
The Comebacker Youre welcome. Fact is: Michelle needs the LPGA more than the LPGA needs her (which is not to say the LPGA doesnt need her a lot.) The reason is: she needs a regular schedule. She needs to get a rhythm to her schedule. I agree with Leadbetter when he says all the stopping and starting, particularly with all the commutes to Hawaii, has taken a heavy toll on Wies game.

Jeff writes:What a prima donna. Her parents wont speak to the press? If her game was as good as everybody thought why not skip college? She drops out of tournaments for: sore wrist? Heat exhaustion? Who was the fool from Nike who gave her a $10 million contract with one win: U.S. Publinks? Add up her scores over the past two years. Shes a strong 10 handicap.
The Comebacker Michelle Wie, getting 10 shots from any scratch player you can find, can be my partner in a Saturday best-ball match anywhere you want to tee it up.

Dennis writes:It is without a doubt that the young lady was given too much money and she had little to drive her after that. She has been resting on laurels she has never earned ' potential yes, and desire perhaps, and defeatism from her family emanates from her play. It is obvious that she isnt having fun. When she decides to prove herself it will be without her family smothering her every waking moment on the golf course. I may be wrong. I hope so.
The Comebacker Despite parental love and unquestioned support, her mother and father havent always been the best sounding boards for Wies career decisions.

Gar writes:Im pulling for Michelle to gain an LPGA card and then play on the LPGA Tour. Trying to keep up with the PGA (Tour) players ruined her game.
The Comebacker
I think we found a Michelle Wie fan.

Larry writes:You never give up covering Wie. They say Michael Phelps may earn five million-plus this year and Wie still earns 20 million (hope not). Don't you feel only because the media (you) is so fascinated with this loser that she attracts dollars and Phelps and others who are winners do not receive as much? Everyone I know laughs at what a joke Wie is.
The Comebacker Michelle Wie laughed her way all the way to a 7-under 65 Thursday at LPGA Q-School.

George writes:Too bad the LPGA is at a crossroads because every time they get to one they double bogey. They are losing sponsors, crowds are sparse at best and the yardage they claim the girls hit the ball must be done with smoke and mirrors. Also testing Sorenstam (for drugs) after her last LPGA event was stupid.
The Comebacker
Like, I said, the LPGA needs Michelle Wie, too.

Don writes:Since when is one golfer bigger than the game itself? Arnie, Jack and Lee are not competing anymore, but the game goes on. The LPGA will go on to bigger and better things. There are great players making the ladies game great.
The Comebacker
Wow, a positive e-mail.

M.D. writes:I remember reading an article by Jan Stephenson in which she stated that the 'Asians are killing the LPGA Tour,' or something to that effect. At the time I read it I thought that her statement was a stretch. Now, a few years later, I find myself watching the LPGA less and less often. If (Paula) Creamer, (Morgan) Pressel or someone else I recognize is in contention I'll watch. If, as is common, the leaderboard is full of names I can't pronounce ' I lose interest. So I agree ' the LPGA needs Wie. Can we just lose her parents?
The Comebacker
Double ouch.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)