What Are Wies Chances
Which is why I have been surprised this week at how many people in our hallowed halls want to know if I think Michelle Wie can win the LPGAs Samsung World Championship that begins Thursday in California.
This tournament, in case you have been kayaking in New Caledonia, will mark Wies professional debut. It also happens to start two days after her 16th birthday.
Hardened Golf Channel veterans who can recite chapter and verse about all things Tiger are unusually curious about how Wie will do.
I have also been hearing a lot lately from the usual E-mail cynics who have started begging me to stop paying so much attention to Wie. These are the same cynics who insist The Golf Channel pays too much attention to Tiger Woods.
Heres a news flash: Were The Golf Channel. This is what we do. Woods is the biggest story in golf month in and month out. This week Michelle Wie is the biggest story in golf.
Just as CNN cant devote too much coverage to President Bush, we cant give too much airtime to Woods and, right now, Wie.
Meanwhile back to the question: Will Wie win in this elite field event?
My answer is threefold: 1. She can. 2. I wont be surprised if she does. 3. I am not picking her because she hasnt played in a tournament in weeks.
My colleague Mark Lye calls this ring rust.
Obviously a Wie victory at Samsung would be the biggest story of the week in golf. It might even be the story of the year. And, yes, we root for the story in the news business without trying to root against anybody in particular.
For me, the best part about a Wie victory would be the silencing effect it would have on all those critics who have bashed her for not learning how to win at lower levels the way Woods did when he was a junior. My take on that is this: Where is it written that the Woods blueprint is the only path?
I like the fact that Wie always has aimed high, entering tournaments against the best competition she can find even if it means her chances for victory---like against a PGA Tour field---are slim.
By now I know many of you are shaking your heads and thinking there he goes. Hewitt has been sipping Wie Kool-Aid again. You might be interested in knowing that B.J. Wie, Michelles father, was not happy with me recently when I posited the notion that Morgan Pressel has had a better year in womens golf in 2005 than Michelle Wie.
That assessment, by the way, changes if Wie wins this week in Palm Desert.
Meanwhile I like the fact that'win or lose'Wie will go with enthusiasm back to Hawaii to take her drivers license test. I like the fact that her father has told me she will not be getting her own car just because she is 16.
I like the fact that she has no immediate plans to drop out of school. And I like the fact that she doesnt plan on playing more than two or three PGA Tour events in 2006 when, if she wanted, she could accept up to seven sponsors exemptions.
Thanks to Nike and Sony, Michelle Wie is now earning 10 million dollars a year. I like the fact that, at the moment, it hasnt changed her or her parents.
Now if youll excuse me, I have to get back to the water cooler. I think a hot topic has just broken out. I think I heard the name Sean OHair..Or was it David Duval?.Or was it
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.