Wie trails Ciganda, Granada by 2 at Tour Champ.

By Doug FergusonNovember 21, 2014, 9:41 pm

NAPLES, Fla. - Michelle Wie suddenly is in a position to consider a million ways how a great year can get even better.

On a tough day that only rewarded the best shots, Wie holed out for eagle with a pitching wedge on her way to a 5-under 67 that moved her up high enough on the leaderboard Friday at the CME Group Tour Championship to get into position for a $1 million bonus.

Carlota Ciganda of Spain took advantage of a putting lesson from Spanish great Jose Maria Olazabal to make five birdies for a 67 that gave her a share of the lead with Julieta Granada of Paraguay, who scrambled for a 71. They were at 7-under 137 going into the weekend at the Tiburon Golf Club.

Morgan Pressel, who rallied on the back nine Thursday to overcome a rugged start, shot a 66 and was one shot out of the lead.

All of them would love to win the LPGA Tour season finale because it's a big title with a $500,000 check for first place. None has a mathematical chance at the $1 million bonus for winning the points-based Race to CME Globe.

And that's where Wie comes in.

Wie, who captured her first major this year at Pinehurst No. 2 in the U.S. Women's Open, is No. 4 in the Race to CME Globe. Only the top three players - Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and 17-year-old Lydia Ko - can win the $1 million bonus simply by winning the tournament.

Wie needs a little bit of help, only she did most of the heavy lifting.

Even though she made bogey on the par-5 opening hole that irritated her, the 25-year-old from Hawaii bounced back with her eagle on No. 7, birdies on the par 5s and a score that put her only two shots out of the lead.


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"All I want is an opportunity, a chance," Wie said. "I'm really proud of myself for giving myself that today. I just want to go out there tomorrow and put myself in a great position for Sunday. That's all I want, and that's all I'm asking for. Whatever happens, happens."

She did get some help from the top three.

Lewis, who opened with a 69 and was only three shots out of the lead, struggled with distance control in the blustery conditions and had to chip in for birdie and make a tough par putt on the 18th to salvage a 74. He was six shots out of the lead.

Park couldn't get a putt to drop. She also had a 74. Ko had another 71 and was five shots behind.

"Six back is not a horrible position," Lewis said. "I don't think anybody is running away with this thing. I think it's going to end up being pretty bunched up at the end and probably a playoff on Sunday. I'm right where I need to be. I'm trying not to think about player of the year and all that stuff. It's up there, but trying not to think about it."

Lewis can sweep all the significant awards at this LPGA Tour finale provided she finishes ahead of Park, and so far she is three shots ahead. Not to be forgotten is that $1 million packaged in $100 in a glass case that they posed with on the eve of the tournament.

Along with prize money, the winner of the Race to CME Globe will receive the largest single-day payoff in the history of women's golf.

The first step is to try to catch the leaders.

Ciganda was home in Spain last week when she called Olazabal and asked him for a lesson.

"We stay there like three hours on the putting green, just hitting putts," Ciganda said. "He told me a few things and it seems like it's working, so I'm pretty happy. I have to thank him. Then we played last Friday before coming here, so it was really nice to play. He's so passionate about golf. It just his life."

And how did that match turn out? Ciganda teamed with a Challenge Tour player in Europe, their best ball against Olazabal.

"We won on the last hole," she said. "But it was tough."

Pressel was 3 over through 10 holes in the opening round when she battled back for a 72. She was headed for another slow start Friday until knocking in a 15-foot par putt on the third hole, and then she was on her way to the best round of the day.

Granada spent most her time swapping birdies with bogeys, though she stayed atop the leaderboard.

Sarah Jane Smith (69) and Sandra Gal (71) joined Wie at 5-under 139, while So Yeon Ryu had another 70 and was three shots out of the lead. Ryu is at No. 5 in the Race to CME Globe and is on the fringe on contending for the big bonus.

The weekend is important for Wie to keep moving forward, and for Lewis, Park and Ko to start making up ground.

"You can make up a lot of ground quickly," Granada said. "But your game has to be on. The toughness of the course will show it."

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.