Topsy-Turvy Year for Wie

By George WhiteDecember 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 5 from this past season.
 
You love her, you loathe her. No one feels ambivalent about her. But there is no denying that one of the biggest sports stories of 2006 was the continuing saga of teen-ager Michelle Wie.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie had some good moments in 2006, like three top-5 finishes in LPGA majors.
The year was filled with both the good ' top-5 finishes in three of the four LPGA majors, a runner-up in the Evian Masters ' and the bad ' missed cuts in all three of her PGA TOUR appearances as well as in European and Japanese tour events. Along the way she made almost $20 million in endorsements, appearance money and purse money. And its all almost become a blur to the senior high school student in Honolulu, Hawaii.
 
Whether I play good or play bad, said Wie, I end the week knowing that I tried my hardest. It doesn't discourage me at all. ... I'm still young, so I'm still learning.
 
Her year began slowly, Wie missing the cut by four strokes in the PGA TOURs Sony Open in her home state. But when she began competing against women, she quickly zoomed to the top ' a third-place finish in the Fields Open, followed by another third in her first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. In that attempt, Wie was leading the field during the final nine holes of the tournament, only to finish just one shot out of a playoff.
 
She finished tied for fifth in the McDonalds LPGA Championship, tied for third at the U.S. Womens Open. A tie for 26th in the Weetabix Womens British Open was the only blot on an exemplary womens-major finish.
 
Take away the Womens British and a tie for 27th in the Samsung World Championship, and Wies average finish in womens events this year was a gaudy 3.5. However, against the men, she lost ground over her 2005 season ' she didnt come close to making a cut on the PGA TOUR or the European Tour or the Japanese Tour. And then there was her failed attempt at qualifying for the mens U.S. Open, where she made it through the first stage, but faltered late in Stage 2.
 
She did make the cut in the SK Telecom Open on the mens Asian Tour, but in that one against second-rate Far East pros she finished 35th.
 
A 17-year-old girl finishing so highly in the womens majors is a story unto itself. However, in trying and failing so often against the men, Wie gained a whole host of critics who vehemently objected that she should attempt to compete against men. And Wie definitely is aware of those negative sentiments ' but she will continue to tee it up against the gents whenever she gets an invitation.
 
A lot of people think that I have to master the LPGA before I can get to the PGA (TOUR), said Wie. But my feeling is a little bit different on that because they're so different.
 
Obviously, I'm playing the maximum number of LPGA tournaments that I can, and I'm trying to win a lot of tournaments there. But it's just so different out here that I feel like I have to play in PGA TOUR events to get better at PGA TOUR events, and I just have to go through it and work on it and learn from it. That's the way that I learn how to do it on the LPGA, as well, and I just think that I have to go through the same progress here. I know it's not going to come overnight. It's just a long learning progress.
 
Wie provoked further criticism when she professed she didnt know a rule against hitting moss during her backswing in a bunker at the Weetabix ' she was penalized two strokes ' and took another public-relations hit when she fired caddie Greg Johnson after her T-26 finish at the same tournament. Actually, she didnt personally deliver the news ' that was done by then-agent Ross Berlin. But the action further alienated many in the golfing public.
 
Despite her misses while playing with the men, Wie says she doesnt plan to quit the considerable challenge. She will keep on doggedly pushing ahead until she finally cracks through.
 
I never get discouraged, she says. It's not like it's a really easy thing to do, to make a cut on the PGA TOUR. If you think about it, every week, half the field is gone after the cut. I mean, the cut isn't like out of 144 players, 100 make it - only like 70 and ties make it. It's a really hard thing to do, and I feel like it's just really fun for me to play in these kinds of events.
 
I think it's a bigger deal for everyone else. Obviously I would love to make the cut. I would love to make the top 20. But I'm not really going to rush it. I realize it's not the easiest thing in the world for a 16-year-old girl to make the cut. I have to get stronger, I know where I have to get better at, and it's going to happen. I know it's in me, but Ive just going to play hole-by-hole and not really think about the cut.
 
Of course, the pressure continues to mount at each traditionally male event to advance to weekend play. But that, says Wie, is not the reason why she wants to make cuts. She doesnt want to advance just so she can become one of the first of her gender (along with Babe Zaharias) to achieve such a lofty honor on the PGA TOUR.
 
Michelle Wie
One of the lasting images of '06 is Wie being taken by ambulance from the John Deere Classic.
I want to make cuts because it's an achievement and it's a goal of mine. I'm not out here to justify anything. ... I feel like I don't really feel any extra pressure just because I'm a girl out here, she says.
 
One point that is often missed by her critics is that Wie is allowed to play in only six LPGA events a year as a non-member. Additionally, she is allowed to play in the U.S. Womens Open and the Womens British. Once she has played those, she HAS to play in mens events if she wants to keep active. But she says that is a rule that she is perfectly happy to abide by.
 
I would love to play one or two more events, she said. But unfortunately they (the LPGA) have the restriction and I'm very happy with the tournaments that I'm playing in.
 
I think that since I'm only playing a restricted number of LPGA events, it really opens up my schedule to play internationally and to play in more men's events - which I think is fabulous for me because I really enjoy playing internationally and playing on the PGA TOUR, playing on the Asian Tour, playing on the European Tour. It just brings so much excitement to my life that I really like it and I really like having the diversity.
 
And maybe the restriction of just being able to play in eight womens events has another side ' maybe its to the advantage of a high-school senior who just turned 17 October 11.
 
I think that having to balance school and golf is very important to me, because truth be told, I don't think I can really handle going out every single week and playing every single week. I like having the social life. I like having to get away from golf and just going to school and just being myself and just being 16 or 17 or 18.
 
I like having the dual life, so I'm very happy that school is still going to be a part of my life and that golf is still a part of my life, because they're both very important to me. And I feel like I have a good balance between the number of tournaments that I play and the amount of time that I spend in school.
 
So, she will again do what she did this year ' play a mix of womens and mens tournaments, and do it in spite of the multitudes who criticize her.
 
I think what Im doing might be right, might be wrong, she said, but its what I want to do right now, and it makes me happy. So I intend to keep on doing it.
 
Going into next year, this teen-ager surely will be a marked woman ' er, girl. She is simply a kid, a senior at a Honolulu high school, but she is so much more. Shes 6-feet-1, shes intelligent and she has a wonderful talent for playing golf.
 
I don't like being normal. I mean, people called me queer, but I like it, Wie said with a laugh.
 
I feel like I'm really normal when I'm at school. I'm normal on the golf course. It's hard to say what normal really is, you know. What is normal? I'm not really sure what that actually means. But I feel like God gave me a special talent, and I intend to use it. You know, when I'm at school, I'm me.
 
And, she is revising a lot of peoples opinions. Golf, from here on out, may not be just a gentlemens game.
 
Come on - I mean, a gentlemen's game? she said. It's just such an old mentality, and it's for anyone. It's really a people's game.
 
Related Links:
  • Michelle Wie Bio
  • Michelle Wie Photo Gallery
  • Reviewing 2006; Previewing 2007
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

    Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

    Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:



    Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.



    At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

    Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

    But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

    Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

    Getty Images

    Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

    Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

    It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    “I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

    After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

    Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

    “It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

    Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


    Getty Images

    Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

    In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

    Made Cut

    Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

    U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

    Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

    “What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

    Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

    #MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

    Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

    Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

    Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

    “I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

    The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

    During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

    “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

    The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

    Stay tuned.

    Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

    The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

    On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

    That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.


    Missed Cut

    West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

    J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

    Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

    But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

    Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

    It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.