Shes a Pro Now - Ready or Not
So, she isnt a polished public speaker. The giggles, the ums, you knows and I means sounded exactly like a 15-year-old ' just days shy of being 16 ' would say it if she were suddenly thrust in front of a highly inquisitive world.
That doesnt matter, though. Michelle Wie needs only to be a polished professional golfer. Along the way, she showed signs of being a philanthropist ' she announced that her first gift would be one of $500,000 to the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. As an American citizen, I felt it was my duty, she said.
This day has been a long time coming for her. From the first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew that, you know, I would do it for the rest of my life, and I loved it, she said. But the decision really came down to the last couple of months ' I felt really ready, I felt mature enough, I felt comfortable enough out there.
Her decision to turn professional has polarized an entire world of golf fans. Some are ardently in her corner, others are adamantly against her. Those who regularly peek at my rants know that I am among those who think she should do whatever she thinks appropriate.
However, neither I, nor those who think that this is a terrible mistake, matter too much in the grand scheme of things. The opinions that really matter are the professional players, those who have been down this path before and who will be sharing a professional platform with Wie. Here are their views, collected over the course of two years:
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Shes impressive. Shes very talented. She hits the ball a long way. Shes very mature on the golf course. I love her golf swing. The potential is there in the future ... Shes so young, she has many years ahead of her that shes going in the right direction and I think shell be good for the future of womens golf.
JOHN DALY: My only concern is that she is going to be burnt out before she gets to maybe the peak that she wants to get to. I think most of the guys on tour were really rooting for her at the Public Links. I know I was. It would be cool to see her play in the Masters, but my concern for her is that she is still a baby. She is only 15 years old and she has got a lot of other things that she needs to learn in life as well; the biggest concern that I see is that you just do not want to burn that talent out before she reaches her peak. Like everybody else does, we just wish her the best and we love watching her play golf. She is phenomenal.
MEG MALLON: You just don't know what is going to happen down the road. I love that she's 15 and she has that goal (to eventually play the mens tour). Why not? Good for her, I hope it's her goal. It sounds like it is. So if that's what she wants to do then, that's absolutely wonderful. I hope she gets the opportunity to do that.
ERNIE ELS: I think we've got a different person here. I think from when she was 13, she wanted to play out here on the PGA Tour, and I think to make a difference in life, and that's what she's after - to make a difference. She wants to be different and she definitely is going to be different if she can get to her goals.
I don't think you should stand in her way. I think her dad and her mom are doing what they feel best for Michelle, and that's to let her go and do what she wants to do. Her dream is to play out here with us. I think at the end of the day, Michelle probably if she wants to play on (the mens) tour, when she gets old enough will have to go through tour school, get through that. She'll be very welcome on tour. She will definitely get every sponsor exemption she asks for.
CRISTIE KERR: She's so young, and she's so talented and it's really not a normal situation that somebody that young would be that good, and, in a sense tournament tested. I just hope she wants to play on our tour because we really need her and she can bring in so many new sponsors and fans. And in a sense, not to discredit Annika - Annika does an amazing job - but sponsors look at certain people differently. For her (Wie), she's just got this aura around her that makes people want to pay attention and Annika has done that for a lot of years. But people are always looking for something new and fresh and she's it right now.
JIM FURYK: (Answering a question whether she would be taking someones spot in the field) Well, see, I have a problem with that argument in that it's a sponsor's spot. It's not really their spot. ESPN asked me a question yesterday, was I surprised that she was in the field again this year. And I said, Hey, if anyone was going to have a surprise, it would have been last year. After the attention she had gained and the notoriety that she had gained and the attention the tournament (Sony Open) gained probably not only nationwide but worldwide, it was a no-brainer. You just expected that she would be in the field again because it was such good publicity and such a good thing for this golf tournament. I would expect that she would be here.
Will it bother some players if she got an exemption somewhere else? I'm sure it would. I'm not one of those people.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, five years from now, she is going to be 20, which is still so young and she has such a long career ahead of her. I do not care if she plays in one of these things tomorrow or in a few years from now. She is such an incredible talent that her chance to play in these will be for years and her chances to play in big events, whether it is mens tour events, whether it is womens tour events, will be for many, many years. So I guess what I am saying is there is no rush. To be only 15, it is just incredible to be playing the way she is.
TOM LEHMAN: I think there's a great deal of respect for her talent. I think she proved to everybody last year (at the Sony Open) that being that she lives here, that she deserves a spot in the field. I think everybody pulls for her. I think that's really probably the most important thing. I think everybody out here is pulling for her. She doesn't step on anybody's toes. She's respectful. I think people respect her talent as well.
DAVID TOMS: I think it's obviously good for the tournament. I mean, there's a reason that she's here. I've been watching her lately. She's played extremely well. You know, I'm for it if every tournament wants to do what's best for that tournament, and the strongest field they can possibly have, the notoriety that they can have. I don't have any problem with it whatsoever, and I wish her well. She's obviously a great talent, and she'll add a buzz to this tournament that otherwise wouldn't be here. I mean, she's as nice as can be.
PAUL AZINGER: She's phenomenal. There's no shame in losing to her. We were talking about it today (at the Sony Open) on 17. One guy in my group was 5-over with two to go and he birdied the last two holes, and Ted Purdy saw me the other day, and was grinding not to let Michelle beat him. I said, No shame to lose to that girl. She's awesome. She hits it like a man.
JILL McGILL: She's proven that she can compete with the best women golfers in the world, and if she feels as though her goal is to play against the men and play on the PGA Tour, who am I to say no? If that's what you want to do, I wish her the best of luck. I hope she does accomplish it, because I think that she does nothing but good things not only for the women, but also for the men. I think it draws more attention to them. I think it draws a lot of attention to our tour.
And I get a little tired of people saying, Oh, you know, her aspirations are too high. I mean, whatever your goals are, I think you should set them and you should go for them. She stated what they are and I think she's working towards that. You can't take that away from her.
Not every pro golfer agrees that Michelle Wie is doing the right thing, of course. And goodness knows, not all the great unwashed public believe she is correct, either. But I say let her do her thing. She is ready physically. If she is ready mentally, it should be quite a ride over the next 30 years.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.