Bigger Week for Wie or LPGA

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 2, 2008, 5:00 pm
GolfChannel.com Insider Brian Hewitt asked David Leadbetter Tuesday if advancing through LPGA Q-School is more important to his star pupil Michelle Wie or more important to the LPGA. So it got the GolfChannel.com editorial team debating the question. Senior writer Rex Hoggard and editorial director Jay Coffin weigh in with differing opinions.
 

By JAY COFFIN
Editorial Director, GolfChannel.com

 
As much as it pains me to admit it, the LPGA needs Michelle Wie more than she needs it. If the Big Wiesy fails LPGA Q-School this week shell simply go the route she has the past six years where shes chased exposure and sponsor exemptions all over the world. It essentially would be business as usual because shed easily be able to secure exemptions into 12-14 events across varying tours. It wouldnt be ideal, but still would be a great option.
 
In these difficult economic times, the LPGA can use every resource it can get its hands on to weather the storm. The tour recently announced its 2009 schedule and lost three events and is down about $5 million on total purse money. It has been widely reported that the LPGA only has five tournaments signed past 2009. Having Wie in the mix certainly wouldnt hurt the LPGAs chance at keeping many of those sponsor opportunities for 2010. It wouldnt hurt TV contract negotiations either.
 
But heres the key. Wie needs to be relevant for the LPGA to need her. In no way does the tour gain from her being 80th on the money list. The LPGA will only reap rewards if Wie contends regularly as she did in 2006 when she played in eight LPGA events and recorded six top-five finishes, including third-place ties at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the U.S. Womens Open. Those results will help the LPGA, not the WDs, DQs or MCs that have become a habit over the past two years.
 
Annika Sorenstam having retired has nothing to do with this issue. In no way is Wie going to be a replacement for Sorenstam, who was one of the LPGAs greatest ambassadors. What were talking about here is having Wie become an addition to Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer, two other players that the LPGA desperately need on top of their games for the foreseeable future.
 
The one caution about saying that the LPGA needs Wie more than she needs it is that it comes across as suggesting that Wie is bigger than the tour. No one on any tour can claim that (other than perhaps Tiger Woods?).
 
It would do Wie a world of good to get her card and finally have a safe, secure place to play for a year. Itd be interesting to see how consistent she could become if she were to play a full schedule only against women. Sure, all that would be nice but its not a necessity. Shed still have a place to play even if she doesnt get her LPGA card. Its just that in that scenario the LPGA wouldnt have another star to promote.
 

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By REX HOGGARD
Senior Writer, GolfChannel.com

 
Considering the state of the global economy and an ever-shrinking pool of potential title sponsors, one would half expect LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens to be camped atop those newly built bleachers behind the 18th green at LPGA Internationals Champions Course holding one of those oversized wow Wie foam fingers and sporting a Stanford hat.
 
No need for an Excel Spreadsheet or a CPA on this one. The LPGA needs Michelle Wie to cash the tour card lottery like auto executives need gas money for their private jets.
 
This is, however, a cause-and-effect relationship. The tours bottom line depends on Wie lifting her game above the Mendoza Line. And a tour card may just be the B-12 shot Wie has been searching for since the resume started going sideways in 2007.
 
In two calendars Wie has 18 LPGA, Ladies European Tour and PGA Tour starts, missed seven cuts, withdrew twice, was disqualified once and managed just a single top-10 finish at the Ladies German Open.
 
The statute of limitations has long ran out on Wies only national individual title, the 2003 U.S. Womens Public Links Championship, and an inexplicable march of bad luck (wrist injury), bad decisions (eight confidence-sapping starts on the PGA Tour) and bad math (her disqualification from this years State Farm Classic) has left the one-time world-beater-in-waiting simply beaten and waiting for something good to happen.
 
A tour card is hardly reason to celebrate, particularly given Wies status as the next-big-thing following her promising 2006 campaign. But its a start, and few in the game are in more desperate need of a fresh start.
 
It is a measure of how far the once heralded teen has fallen that her tie for fourth at the sectional qualifier in California this fall (70-65-74-71) drew almost as much attention, and acclaim, as that top-5 trifecta in three of the four majors she played in 06.
 
A tour card would give Wie more than eight starts to make a year, a key ingredient for a player in search of confidence, and the LPGA a chance to market Wie Mania 2.0. Truth is the LPGA has been riding the Wie wave for some time. On LPGA.com, theres a prominent Wie Watch button, just above the Celebrating Annika tab. So much for long good-byes.
 
Now imagine the marketing magic Daytona Beach can conjure up with the likes and likenesses of Wie, Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer. Its a formula that will work, but only with a happy, healthy and hungry Wie. Heading into Wednesdays opening round, one out of three isnt bad. The rest is up to that explosive swing and fragile psyche.
 
Wie has reportedly borrowed a page from Frank Lickliters Q-School CliffNotes and decided not to talk to the media until after the five-round fun-fest is finished. As Lickliter deadpanned after last years PGA Tour Fall Classic, Ben Hogan never talked to the press.
 
True, but then The Hawk never needed to go to Q-School. Nor has Wie ever needed a victory to celebrate, be it symbolic or otherwise.
 

Related Links:
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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    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.