Sony the Invite the Cut and Wie

By George WhiteJanuary 11, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenThree-legged men, two-headed babies, the bearded lady its time for the circus to start all over again. If its January, it must be time for the Sony Open in Hawaii. And if its time for the Sony, then SHE must be there.
She is the 16-year-old kid who is to golf what Madonna is to singing. Michelle Wie is a polarizing figure in her sport. Some are full of admiration at her ability to play the game at such a high level while still in a youthful body. Others are full of irritation at what they consider a gimmick, a media creation that is intent upon wrecking the whole mens game.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie continues to generate a great deal of interest when she plays PGA Tour events.
Of course, there are some who are dubious. Michelle Wie? Whats all the fuss? Shes going to have to make a cut eventually, said Mark Calcavecchia. Shes never going to win ' period Maybe once she makes a cut, shell forget it.
If she makes a cut, Calc continued, you know, finishing 60th or something, next tournament she plays in, it's like, All right, she made a cut. Now what is she trying to do?
Is she trying to win, seriously? What is she trying to do? I think all that 'women playing the men's tournament' crap, either everybody is tired of it or...
A 16-year-old, though, just doesnt play golf like this, others say. And thats either a 16-year-old boy or a 16-year-old girl.
I can't ever think of a 16-year-old girl that could hit it like that, said Jim Furyk. I'll go beyond that - I don't know too many 16-year-old boys that can go out there and play in a tour event, have that much composure, hit the ball that well. She's definitely one in a million or one in a billion, as far as a player.
Sean OHair and Justin Rose toured the Sony Open course with Wie Tuesday. You have to remember, she's 16 years old, she's playing against men twice her age, said OHair. That's not easy.
The average age out here - if you're young, you're in your late 20s out here. Let's face it - I'm shocked that she's 16 years old. I think we have to all remember that. She may not peak in her game until she is in her mid-20s, maybe even later than that. From what she's already proved, missed the cut a couple times by a shot at 15 years old - that's pretty impressive.
How rare is it? Stuart Appleby said Wie is in the one millionth of one percent for girls her age. She will be part of history. She just hasn't been part of history at all yet. And that's what is scary, is someone that good hasn't played any role in golf at all. Now in the next 15, 20 years, she could be the biggest and best player ever.
Jim Furyk has no problem with her playing the Sony, as long as she is a professional. There was some justification inviting her the last two years when she was an amateur, he says. But now that she is a pro, he believes she has every right to be here.
For some reason, says Furyk, I put a difference in amateur and pro. I like to see sponsor exemptions go to golf professionals. Not that I don't think there's deserving amateurs, and not that I don't think she deserved it, because she did. I have no problem with her being in the event in the past. I like giving exemptions to people who are trying to make a living, if that makes sense.
That being said, I like the fact that she's a professional now getting an exemption. She's out there trying to have a career and make money. It's her profession. I like seeing golf professionals get exemptions. ... I would not be surprised at all if she made the cut next week.

And the gents are beyond the stage of being embarrassed if Michelle beats them by a stroke or two; although their friends still let them know it if they let a girl beat them.
You're past it till you get home, said David Toms. You go to dinner with your buddies, they're all over you about it.
But as far as just a pure playing standpoint, sure. If you were trying to close a business deal and a woman got it and you didn't, is that a big - would they make fun of you? I think we're all past that. I mean, I think it's great that they're even able to compete with us. She actually can.
Toms wonders deep down what Wie has to gain by playing in womens events. She probably should be playing regularly on the LPGA, he readily concedes. But does she have something more awaiting her on the mens tour?
I think when she's full-time on the LPGA Tour, winning their golf tournaments - why even? he says. I think now it (playing the PGA Tour) kind of brings attention to HER game. Would she be making the money off the golf course if all she did was play ladies events? I mean, would it be the same?
To me, it's more of a story - and she's more of a story - when she's trying to play our events, make cuts in our events. I think she's a bigger story trying to make the cut in the Sony Open than she is trying to win just a mediocre ladies event. I think that's probably why she's making the money off the golf course that she is, is because of that. She's able to compete with us. I think so, anyway.
Indeed, says OHair, this 16-year-old can make the cut at Sony this week. If she doesn't, she will eventually. It's not a matter of if, just a matter of when.
That's my opinion. If it's this week, who knows? I think she's playing well enough to do it. She could possibly do better than just making the cut.
It still boggles the imagination, Wie possibly playing the weekend at a mens event. It boggles the imagination that ANY 16-year-old could do it. But a lot of tour pros say it is quite possible. Its going to be a most interesting week.
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Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii, the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilders Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''