History Negativity and Wie

By Mercer BaggsJune 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
Editors note: The Golf Channel will provide in-depth coverage of Michelle Wies attempt to qualify for the mens U.S. Open, including detailed, hole-by-hole results on TheGolfChannel.com; as well as well as TV updates every half hour, beginning at 10:00 a.m. EDT; and a complete recap of the historic day, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
 
Michelle Wie. Phew. I havent written that name in three weeks. What a relief. Ive been holding that one in like a dirty little secret.
 
Of course, as you well know, Wie will be attempting to become the first female player to qualify for a mens major championship this Monday. Shes one of 153 hopefuls at Canoe Brook Country Club, vying for 18 spots into the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.
 
I will be on site in Summit, N.J., along with just about every other member of the golfing media, following on foot all 36 holes.
 
But before I dive right into the pool of possibilities, I want to first apologize for not replying to everyone in the aftermath of my most recent Wie column. I try to always respond to each and every e-mail, even the most negative, because I feel its my obligation to do so ' if you take the time out of your day to read what I write and respond to it, then I can certainly offer you the same courtesy.
 
But if I did so this time, I would have had to completely shirk all my other duties for a week in order to get back to everyone.
 
My Inbox was over-capacitated, filled like Stephen Hawkings mind. Needless to say, Michelle Wie touches a nerve in many a golf fan.
 
Surprisingly, most of the e-mails I received were very negative. In fact, there were only a few notes in support of her ' not just in her attempt to qualify for a mens major, but in relation to her on the whole.
 
And since I didnt have the time to do so then, Ill do so now; in the words of Jules Winfield: Well, allow me to retort.
 
There seemed to be some congruous streams of thought in the many, many e-mails I received. For one, most repliers felt overwhelmingly that Wie should compete against women and only women.
 
To this I ask, why? Why should she allow her gender to limit against whom she wants to compete? I understand the argument that she should perhaps play more events on the LPGA Tour and try and win a few ' winning will only make her a stronger, better player.
 
But why say that she shouldnt compete against men in general simply because she is a woman? If I had a daughter and she could throw a baseball 90 mph, I wouldnt discourage her from playing on the boys baseball team, instead telling her that she needs to play softball with the girls. She might not be as dominant against the boys and she might not win nearly as often, but I would most certainly want her to test herself to the greatest degree and maximize her abilities. Most importantly, I would want her to enjoy herself and do that which makes her happy.
 
Its absolutely senseless to ask Wie to limit herself, because youre doing so based on the boundaries of your own beliefs and feelings, not hers. The wins will come in time ' and they will come. Shes only 16 years old. Let her make her own way in this world. Unless Wie playing exclusively on the LPGA will lower the price of gas, I really dont care where she plays.
 
Another overriding theme was that Wie receives too many sponsors exemptions and should have to qualify if she wants to play against the men. I can understand this to a certain degree. I even think that she should have had to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open. She was offered an invitation based on the fact that she would have qualified via the LPGA money list if she was a member. But thats the point ' shes not a member. She could be. She might not be 18, the age of official acceptance on tour, but if she had petitioned commissioner Carolyn Bivens for early membership, Bivens wouldnt have let her finish her question before handing her a tour badge. Since shes not a tour member, she shouldnt be granted the rights of a tour member. Thats one of the drawbacks to being a freelance golfer.
 
But, tournament officials have the right to invite whomever they want to their event. I understand that the USGA is just covering their back, avoiding any and all possibility of a flukish Wie failure at sectional qualifying. The USGA wanted to guarantee the Wie spectacle.

Which brings us to your next argument: there is too much media attention given to someone who has never really won anything of note. Again, I hear where youre coming from, but I dont entirely agree with it. True, her only real accomplishment is winning the 2003 U.S. Womens Public Links Championship. But you cant deny that she is special. She can hit the ball longer than many men. If you ever watched her play in person, her talent is immediately evident. And more important than the fact that she is a she, she is only 16. Wie shouldnt be anointed the Queen of Golf just yet, but theres so much promise and potential that its hard not to get a little too wrapped up in it all.
 
It can be a little too much at times, I know, but were talking about a sport which on a weekly basis can be more bland than talking about house siding. Wie is something different. Shes a dose of Tabasco.
 
Golf is a measure of routine. Too many people are bothered by anything out of the ordinary. And Michelle Wie is anything but ordinary.
 
Would you rather watch Jeff Maggert beat Tom Pernice, Jr. and Kris Cox at the FedEx St. Jude Classic or watch Wie try and make history at Canoe Brook?
 
Many might answer the former, but I dont buy it. A recent poll on our homepage showed that over 70 percent of those who voted said that they had no interest in Wie and her quest to qualify for the U.S. Open. Balderdash, I say!
 
You dont vote unless you care. And I wouldnt have received 20 times the normal response to my articles if you didnt care.
 
You might not want her to qualify. You might want her to fail. But thats still caring.
 
The final point of interest that was expressed by a few readers was: if women can play in mens events then men should be able to play in womens events.
 
Thats the most ridiculous thing Ive ever heard. Id sooner believe that reality TV is real, that Barry Bonds head is a normal size than to believe that. As I said to one e-mailer, you dont demote yourself from one tour to another just to better your odds of winning. A weak field full of professional men is stronger than the best field full of professional women. The field against which Wie competed in South Korea didnt have one recognizable name it, but it still had more skilled players than the field for the upcoming McDonalds LPGA Championship.
 
Thats not chauvinism; thats fact. Whats chauvinistic is to say that women, who might have the ability to do so, shouldnt compete against men because they are women. And whats absurd is to say that men, who play on a superior tour, should be able to compete against women in the name of fairness.
 
I could go on and on about this topic, but it doesnt deserve any more space.
 
Speaking of the McDonalds, Wie is competing in N.J., because the LPGAs second major, one in which she received a special exemption to compete, is being held in nearby Maryland. Were it not for that proximity, Wie might very well have taken her chances once again in Hawaii, where a sectional qualifier is being held with 10 non-descript players fighting for one spot. It would have been similar to her local qualifying scenario, where Wie was one of 39 players in Hawaii, mostly locals, going for three spots into the sectionals.
 
I wrote prior to those 18 holes that I felt that Wie should easily make it through, and she did, earning medalist honors. I also wrote that I felt that she should have a good chance at making it through the sectionals as well. At the time, it was believed that there would be in the neighborhood of 25-30 available spots into the U.S. Open. There are now only 18. It might not sound like much, but thats a massive reduction. It could mean as much as a two-stroke difference ' the difference between needing a 68 over her final 18 instead of a 70.
 
Wie is going up against, by my count, 19 different PGA TOUR winners, including a pair of past major champions; not to mention a host of proven TOUR regulars and a great number of winners from various other tours around the world.
 
The odds are against her, and the odds to begin with are statistically less than 12 percent for her to qualify.
 
But if she does, if she plays the best golf of her life ' which is what it will take 'then it will be a most impressive feat, more impressive than if she actually won the McDonalds at the end of the week.
 
And if she doesnt, then so be it. Good try and nice effort. There will be a next time.
 
There will be a lot of next times.
 
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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 what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

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


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is 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.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    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.