The Rivalry of the Future
Similarly, moving forward, we will think of Lorena Ochoa and Michelle Wie very much as rivals and contemporaries. Lorena was born in 1981, Michelle in 1989.
Palmer was about a decade older than Nicklaus who was about a decade older than Watson. Rivals dont have to have been born in the same year. This isnt age-group tennis.
It is not popular to trumpet the Wie cause at the moment because she played poorly in her last two mens events and erratically last week at the LPGAs Samsung World Championship. And its not as if there arent other women players in the mix. Can you say Kerr, Webb, Pressel, Creamer or Gulbis? Can you simply say Annika?
For her part, Wie is currently preparing for a different challenge. The deadline on her application for early admission to Stanford University is November 1. According to her father, B.J. Wie, she is grinding over the three essays--two short and one long--that must accompany the application.
Wie expects to hear from Stanford, one way or another, by mid-December. If accepted, she will have until May 1 to let Stanford know if she plans to enter school in the fall of 2007. Stanfords decision on Wie will certainly impact Wies schedule for next year.
Ochoa, meanwhile, took the measure of Sorenstam Sunday at the Samsung, shooting a final round 65 to Annikas 70 while paired with Sorenstam. The victory was her fifth of the year.
Subsequently it was pointed out, most notably by Golfweeks Jim Achenbach, that Ochoas current driving distance average of 270.6 yards was more than double her body weight of 130 pounds.
Ochoas current driving distance average is also almost 10 yards higher than it was last year. By way of comparison, Sorenstams driving average has dropped from 263.0 last year to 261.5 in 2006. Ochoa currently ranks fifth in driving distance. Sorenstam is tied for 16th.
Maybe the next sponsors exemption offered to a woman to play in a PGA event should go to Ochoa.
Ochoa cites increased strength through conditioning for her jump in distance. When I asked Hank Haney, Tiger Woods swing coach, about Ochoa, he said this: Distance in golf is all about speed. Lorena has fast muscles and that makes up for being smaller, simple as that.
The compelling rivalry of the moment in womens golf is Ochoa vs. Sorenstam. But ignore Wies gifts at your own peril. She is not playing well right now. But her talent is still enormous and undeniable. If she was a stock, she would be undervalued. A buy and hold.
But a lot of people seem to be more than a little worn out by all the Wie hype. Ochoa, on the other hand, has become something of a media darling. And for good reason. Her disposition is as sweet as her game. And shes the hottest player in womens golf right now.
Wies best golf might not come until after she finishes college and can devote all her time to golf. But its just a matter of time. And when that time comes, Ochoa, still young, will be waiting.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.
Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.
McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.
He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.
McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65).
Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds.
“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.
Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.
Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.
Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.