Rivalry in the Making Wie vs Creamer

By Lpga Tour MediaFebruary 21, 2005, 5:00 pm
LPGA logo for LeaderboardsMichelle Wie and Paula Creamer are as different as oil and vinegar.
Wie, a 15-year-old amateur, is tall, lanky and has a goal of teeing it up with the men in Augusta, Ga. Creamer, an 18-year-old professional, drapes herself in pink and has her sights set 'only' on dominating all of women's golf.
Both are driven to be the best in the world, but the paths that each have chosen could not be more different than if Robert Frost had described them himself.
Wie's name has been a fixture in the golf world since she set an LPGA record by qualifying for an event as a 12-year-old. Like the 6-foot prodigy herself, the prominence that follows her has grown leaps and bounds every year. She is a sponsor's exemption dream and is a guaranteed success at the gate. Wie's 300-yard drives cause grown men to shake their heads in awe and young girls to think big.
Her amateur career has been dissected in more ways than a formaldehyde frog in Honolulu's Punahou High's biology lab. At the end of the examination, Wie is most often held under the microscope for the national tournaments she has not won than the one she has, the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Publinx.
Creamer is on the other end of the microscope; all she has done is win.
During her amateur career, she won 11 national tournaments on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) circuit, was the country's top-ranked junior and was named the 2003 AJGA Player of the Year. She parlayed that success into making seven out of seven cuts on the LPGA Tour last year and then earned medalist honors by a dominating five strokes at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament Presented by American Airlines to become the early favorite for the 2005 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award.
The comparisons and differences between the two teen phenoms has played out in sports pages across the country, but this week, as Creamer begins her professional career and as Wie adds another chapter to her ever-growing amateur resume, they meet for the first time in 2005.
This is not the first time the two have played in the same event, but it may be the most telling in who has the leg up in achieving her goals. Wie and Creamer teamed together in 2004 to help lead the United States Curtis Cup Team to victory and have played in four of the same LPGA events.
Wie has fared better in three of those tournaments, but it's Creamer who has tasted more success on the LPGA Tour. Her runner-up finish at last year's ShopRite LPGA Classic outdoes Wie's career-best fourth-place finish at the
2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The duo shared low amateur honors, tying for 13th, at last year's U.S.
Women's Open conducted by the USGA, which only added more fuel to the fire of a budding rivalry. Wie and Creamer shrug off the rivalry talk like yesterday's school-yard gossip, but as the future torch bearers of the game, it is in every 3-wood, 7-iron and 20-foot birdie putt whether they like it or not.
'I mean, if she's competition, she's competition,' Creamer said at last year's Wendy's Championship for Children. 'When you win a tournament, you beat everybody in the field. If that's going to happen, we'll see.'
Wie countered with, 'I'm not really sure if there's going to be a rivalry or not. I'm not going to think about it. I'm not really sure what's going to happen,' at the Wendy's, where she tied for sixth and Creamer tied for 18th.
But look back a little further and it's evident that there is a rivalry. It was only two years ago when the media's constant admiration of Wie at the
2003 U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA got the best of Creamer.
'It gets old,' Creamer said at the time. 'You look everywhere, and there she is. I play against the best juniors in the world, and she's just another junior. I don't place her on a higher plateau.'
Two years later and an LPGA runner-up finish in the bag, is Creamer still dismayed at her lack of media attention as compared to Wie?
'I took second in an LPGA event, and it really wasn't that much of a big deal,' Creamer said last year of her ShopRite LPGA Classic finish. 'But I guess I think it's better for me to kind of hang under the radar and every once in a while I pop up.'
Did Wie take notice of Creamer's success?
'I really wanted her to win [the ShopRite],' said Wie at the 2004 U.S.
Women's Open. 'It was really good. I didn't see her play, because the U.S.
Open was that week. But it was really good for her.'
Creamer and Wie are teenagers who couldn't be more different, but when compared to each other form a complimentary face that is firmly attached to the changing world of women's golf.
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Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquinn Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is likely poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.