Wie Is Playing - Because Rules Say She Can
Fourteen-year-old Michelle Wie has caused an awful stir among a large segment of golf fans by taking a sponsors exemption offered by the Sony Open. Just about everyone blames Michelle. A few blame the PGA Tour. Virtually no one has thought to blame the Sony corporation. That is ' if anyone is to blame here.
Its right here in the tours constitution, under the heading All-Exempt Tour Priority Rankings.
In category 12, it reads:
12. Sponsor exemptions (a maximum of eight, which may include amateurs with handicaps of 2 or less) on the following basis:
A. Not less than two sponsor invitees shall be PGA Tour members not otherwise exempt.
B. Not less than two of the top 35 finishers and ties from the last qualifying tournament, as well as 2-15 from the 2003 Nationwide Tour money list, if not all of them can otherwise be accommodated.
Ive scoured the rules thoroughly and can find nothing about 14-year-old females ' particularly 6-foot, 14-year-old females who can belt out a steady succession of drives in the 280-290-yard range. I presume that if the sponsor wanted to invite a 6-foot grizzly bear ' who had a 2-handicap ' it would be perfectly permissible. The PGA Tour doesnt specify gender ' or species ' at all in any of the priority categories.
The tour is open to all comers who are least 2-handicappers. Man, woman or transsexual doesnt make the least bit of difference. Whether you have heard of them or not makes even less of a difference.
Somewhere there has been a huge misunderstanding that this tour is supposed to be for men only. The official name certainly doesnt suggest that ' Professional Golfers Association Tour. The LPGA name clearly states that women only are included ' Ladies Professional Golfers Association. But the PGA Tour ' never has been an exclusion. For 58 years only men played, from Babe Zaharias in 1945 until Annika Sorenstam last year. But that is because no one but men qualified ' or was invited. There never was a gender screening.
Im pointing this out because of the considerable amount of e-mails I have received about Wie, saying, basically, Who does she think she is, playing a tournament which is supposed to be for men? Shes doing it because she is accepted under the rules of the organization, and if someone wants a men-only organization, they had better spell that out in the introductory by-laws.
Many have said she received the invite just as a publicity gimmick. Thats probably at least partially true. But everytime Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus play, its a publicity gimmick - at least on a lower level. Neither is going to win the tournament. And yet, no one ever throws the publicity gimmick up to them. They are adored and welcomed, as they should be. But publicity gimmick is used to denote a negative, and in many cases it isnt. Wie in the field is one of those times.
The men who regularly play the tour think she has a right to be here ' at least the ones who have spoken out publicly. Whether its advisable for a 14-year-old to tackle such a hurdle is a different matter. But the pros agree that she has awesome talent, and no one has complained publicly about her teeing it up with them Thursday.
I saw Tiger before he turned pro,' Ernie Els told the Associated Press after playing a practice round with her. 'I think Michelle, a lot of what she did today reminds me a lot of what Tiger used to do. As a woman golfer, she's going to take it to the next level. I don't think I've ever seen a lady golfer swing the club as good as Michelle does.'
Are people irritated because Wie is only 14? Is it because she is female? What is the problem here?
She is in the field solely at the behest of the Sony corporation. She has a 2-or-better handicap (actually, she's PLUS 4.6, according to her GHIN handicap.) And those are the only requirements for an amateur in a PGA Tour event ' that the sponsor wants you, and you have a handicap low enough to play.
'Give her another couple of years to get stronger,' Els said. 'She can play on this tour. If she keeps working, doing the right things, there's no reason why she shouldn't be out here.
Sounds like she has the talent, at least at this tender age, to play again on the tour ' the PGA Tour ' one day. And that notion has been expressed by not just Els, but by Davis Love III, John Huston, Charles Howell III and Tom Lehman, to name just a few of the men weighing in on the subject. She may finish dead last, but in the future, she has the ability to do something the female gender has never done before.
So come on, people, lighten up a little. Wie probably is going to beat someone this week, and the odds are overwhelming that he will be a male. The odds are overwhelming that he will be older than 14. And the odds are that the world will not end just because Michelle Wie is entered in the Sony Open.
Email your thoughts to George White
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.
Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.
Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:
Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.
Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.
Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.
Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.
David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.