LPGA Singing Youthful Song
Song is so young that she had to get special permission from commissioner Ty Votaw to attend the LPGAs qualifying tournament last year. She easily got her card and set about the rigors of tournament play this season as a rookie. Had not Wie come along, Song would be the one who has gotten the rave reviews for her play as a teen-ager. As it is, the youngster has already finished in a tie for fifth in her first tournament and one stroke away from a playoff in a major a couple of weeks ago ' and she looks surprisingly similar to a young Nancy Lopez. She finished in a tie for 20th last weekend in The Takefuji Classic.
Song was formerly known as Wonglueket - her mothers name - before changing last year to Song - her fathers name, which is much easier to pronounce. She has a twin sister, Naree, who also turned pro recently and is already on the Futures Tour. But Aree did the Michelle thing long before the world had heard of Wie. Four years ago she played in an LPGA major ' the Kraft Nabisco ' at the age of 13, finishing tie for 10th while playing in the final group.
There is no way, you might imagine, that a 17-year-old has anything in common with the women who play the LPGA. But you would be wrong.
You would be surprised, I get along with all the ladies, Aree said. They have been really nice and it has been great. I played in 15 events as an amateur, so I know everyone out here pretty well.
Her play at the Kraft Nabisco will be discussed for a long time. Song was on the green on No. 18 needing to hole a 30-footer to have a chance to beat Grace Park. Astoundingly, she made the putt for eagle! Unfortunately for Aree, Park, playing in the same group, coolly sank a 6-foot putt for birdie and the win.
Aree - she's got a tremendous amount of talent, said Park. She's already had a successful career, and she just has much more to come.
Since she was a child ' and some people would say she still is ' she planned on being a professional golfer. Aree was an excellent student ' she graduated early ' and actually carried a 4.0 average in her studies at the David Leadbetter Junior Academy in Bradenton. After originally announcing she was taking a scholarship to the University of Florida, she changed her mind after a sparkling summer and petitioned Votaw to turn pro. And she couldnt be happier.
I did it so I could retire early, she joked. Aree has gotten much more comfortable with the media, and thats a good thing because she has repeatedly been asked to come into the interview room this year.
I think it's fun, she said of the media inquisition, as well as being in the spotlight on the course. I enjoy playing in front of people, just because I know it's a good sign that I'm doing well and people are noticing what I'm doing. No, I think everything else is a bonus, really.
She knows there are certain things she has given up by turning pro. There will be no college life. There will be no late-night pizza parties, no adjustment to the career life while she remains in limbo from age 18 to 22, no sororities or clubs.
But, she says, this is what she always wanted, from the time she first picked up a golf club.
There are always sacrifices, Aree said, and when you chose to be a professional golfer, it going to be different than when you choose to play in college.
But I wouldnt trade it for anything in the world. This is my dream.
Her dream began before she can remember, almost to the day that she first went to the two-story driving range with her sister, brother and father in Thailand. She and Naree got a bucket of balls and sat up next to her brother, Chan, who now plays at Georgia Tech.
He said, What are you doing. Aree remembers. We hit it so bad and hit it all over the place. So he told us to go up the next level and hit because he didnt want to hit next to us. So, we tried to hit him a couple of times.
She is officially a rookie, but Aree and sister Naree have been around the tournament scene a long time. From the Open when she was 13, to numerous professional tournaments along the way as an amateur, to finally turning professional herself, Aree doesnt feel like a rookie.
I've played in I want to say around maybe 17 or 18 events. So, you know, that almost accounts to one season, she said.
So I'm pretty comfortable out here now, getting to know a lot of the players, the staff. I mean, the comfort level has definitely grown.
Hall of Famer Donna Caponi, now a Golf Channel analyst, marvels at what the youngster has already accomplished. We talked about her being rookie of the year, said Caponi. But her idea is, she wants to win golf tournaments.
Grace Park, who is all of 25 now, shakes her head when she contemplates the life that Aree has chosen. Shes obviously having a great start to her professional career, says Park. All I can say is, she must be tougher and wiser than I was. I was 20, 21 when I came out.
But if there is any different life than the one shes chosen, Aree doesnt see how it could possibly be any better. Shes playing golf, and now theres actually a reason to play tournaments.
It's just nice to know that you can actually get paid, she laughed.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x