Wie Back With the Big Girls

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 24, 2003, 4:00 pm
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. (AP) -- Michelle Wie worked her way through the bag before pulling out the club everyone came to see: the driver.
 
Shortly afterward, the little white ball was soaring toward the blue sky, finally returning to earth some 300 yards away.
 
''Wow,'' a fan murmured, shaking his head.
 
And this was only the driving range at Eagles Landing Country Club.
 
The 13-year-old Wie returns to the LPGA Tour this week, playing the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in suburban Atlanta on a sponsor's exemption.
 
The eighth-grader has already shown she can hang with the big girls by finishing ninth at the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
 
Now, after spending a few weeks working on her short game, she'll try to improve on that showing against another strong field -- albeit one that lacks Annika Sorenstam, the world's most dominant female player.
 
''Kraft Nabisco was a really great week,'' Wie said Thursday, looking rather refreshed after an overnight flight from her native Hawaii. ''I had a lot of fun. It gave me a lot of confidence, so I think I can play well.''
 
This will be the fifth tour event for the 6-foot-tall Wie. She missed the cut the first three times, but soared into contention at the Nabisco by shooting a third-round 66 -- the lowest round ever by an amateur at a major championship.
 
That earned Wie a chance to play in the final group with Sorenstam on Sunday. The teenager faded from contention with a 76, missing several short putts on the back nine.
 
Nevertheless, it was a remarkable performance that left Nancy Lopez shaking her head.
 
''If you don't watch who's hitting and you see the ball take off, you would think it's a man hitting it,'' said Lopez, the host of this week's tournament. ''It's so hot coming off the club, so high.''
 
At the Nabisco, Wie was longer off the tee than Sorenstam and just about everyone else. The teen-ager's swing is smooth and effortless, drawing comparisons to Ernie Els.
 
Then again, Wie still has some work to do on her short game. She's changed putters since the Nabisco and spent more time than usual on the practice green. She'll probably use the driver on just a few holes this week, hoping to manage the intricacies of the 6,187-yard layout with her lesser clubs.
 
''She needs to be more strategic,'' said her father, B.J. Wie, who will be caddying for her this week.
 
While the demands of sudden fame would be overwhelming to many teenagers, Wie seems completely at ease. She exposes the braces on her teeth with frequent smiles, and refers to just about everything as ''cool.''
 
On the course, though, Wie has developed a work ethic beyond her years.
 
''The good part is all this attention makes her work harder,'' her father said. ''She's becoming more responsible. Before I had to push her to work harder. Not anymore.''
 
Somehow, Wie manages to find time to squeeze in the semblance of a normal life. She still likes to hang out at the mall. She took a shop class at school last semester.
 
''It was pretty fun,'' Wie said. ''We made, like, a foldable chair out of wood.''
 
Then again, everything seems to come easy for this prodigy. Already fluent in English and Korean -- her parents' native language -- Wie is studying Chinese because her father believes that will help expand her marketing opportunities down the road. She doesn't seem to have any trouble mixing schoolwork with the extensive amount of time spent on the golf course.
 
''I just do everything in the car,'' Wie said. ''They tell me I'm a really fast learner, so, like, other people take like two hours to do their homework. I finish in like 15 minutes. I don't know how I do that.''
 
Wie insists that she's still eight or nine years away from joining the LPGA Tour full-time. She wants to attend college -- Stanford is her early choice -- and believes she can satisfy her competitive juices with amateur tournaments and the occasional foray into the pro ranks.
 
Lopez, who joined the tour at 19, hopes Wie sticks with that plan.
 
''I missed a part of my life,'' Lopez said. ''You're only young once.''
 
Wie isn't setting any barriers on what the future might hold. She wouldn't mind following Sorenstam, who is taking the week off to help prepare for her historic appearance against the men at the Colonial next month. The youngster might try to qualify for the Masters in the next few years through a male event such as the U.S. Amateur or Public Links championship.
 
And to think: Wie didn't play in her first tournament until she was 9. No wonder she talks about the changes in her game over the past couple of years like it was ancient history.
 
''When I was 11 or 12 -- now it's a lot different,'' Wie said. ''I've been working with my coach more on my swing, my putting and short game, and my overall game. So my level of golf is a lot better.''
 
With plenty of room to grow.
 
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship
  • Full coverage of the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship
     
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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x