A Night at Home with the Girls

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 26, 2006, 5:00 pm
I never thought that I would ever write these words: I spent Saturday night watching LPGA Tour golf.
Not that I had any real plans. But watching golf, at night ' womens or otherwise ' is not at the top of my Oh, Boy! List.
Yet there I was, just as Carolyn Bivens wanted me, sitting in my big chair, watching the ladies play. Actually, it wasnt the ladies I wanted to see play, but a pair of girls.
Morgan Pressel
Morgan Pressel tied for 11th in her second start as an LPGA rookie.
Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel were paired together in the final round of the Fields Open in Hawaii. It was the first time that I can remember being at home and actually wishing that I was at an LPGA event just to walk around with these two for four hours.
Wie and Pressel arent just the future of womens golf, theyve already established a rivalry, thanks in large part to little Miss Morgans verbal jabs ' the ones that Michelle quietly dodges without offering a counter.
But Morgans mouth is good for the tour. They say that a double eagle is the rarest thing in golf, but its not; its a player who says what he or she really thinks.
Since I wasnt inside the ropes for this one, I had to rely on television and published reports to see how the two would interact. From all accounts the two were quite congenial, shaking hands on the first tee, hugging on the last, and chatting amiably down the fairways.
While competitive rivalries are good for any sport, hopefully this one will be of the friendly variety. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had a contentious relationship before developing a healthy respect for one another on their way to revitalizing the NBA. It all began with a television commercial in which the two both starred. Perhaps if Nike buys Callaway, as has been rumored, then these two girls can sit on a commercial set and get to know one another better.
Michelle and Morgan are a lot like Magic and Larry. Both are extremely gifted, but in their own dynamically different ways. And while one is more glitz and glamour ' more Hollywood; the other is more grit and guile ' more French Lick, Ind.
Their personalities shine through in their outer-wear.
Saturday, Wie wore a matching pink outfit, with a skirt almost alarmingly short for a 16-year-old. She sported some fancy Nike shades and had earrings dangling down to her jaw line. Had she taken off the hat and switched her spikes for some designer shoes, she would have fit perfect the part of someone sitting outside a caf pretending to be Miss Cool Breeze Coffee Drinker.
If Michelle is modern, then Morgan is traditional.
Pressel also had on a pair of long earrings, but wore no sunglasses. Her clothing consisted of a red-and-white-striped Ralph Lauren Polo shirt and average length navy shorts. Red, white and blue. She was probably eating apple pie and humming the National Anthem, too. She could have been a miniature, female version of Davis Love III.
Then there was the third member of their threesome, Sherri Turner. Turner, who is the combined age of two Wies and one Pressel, dressed the part of LPGA Past. She had on some long, baggy shorts; an un-tucked, frumpy shirt; a visor and some spectacles. To complete the look, she even used a broomstick putter.
We are definitely in the beginning stages of a new, younger, hipper LGPA Tour.
But while style certainly has its place in sports, substance is what matters.
Saturday, Wie showed she has both.
There will still be plenty of Wie critics citing that she didnt win this past week and has never really won much of anything. But what she proved at Ko Olina Golf Club is that she is getting closer and closer to winning. And when it happens once, its going to happen a lot.
When Wie three-putted the par-5 13th to fall two off the lead, it looked like she was finished. She just doesnt know how to win, I thought; she cant handle the situation.
And then she proved me wrong.
Because, then she birdied the par-5 14th to get back within one. And then she birdied the 17th to tie for the lead. And then she bombed a drive on 18 and hit an 8-iron from 157 yards to 8 feet.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie gave the homeland crowd plenty to cheer about with her final-round 66.
She missed the putt on the left side. Had she made it, she would have posted a number which likely would have gotten her into a playoff. Instead, she finished at 13 under, one back and in third place.
Television analysts said that she pulled her putt, that nerves made the stroke for her. She said that she just misread it. To her defense, Seon Hwa Lee had the same putt to win the tournament in sudden death and also missed it left.
With thousands of homeland supporters applauding her effort, Wie was visibly disappointed walking off the 18th green. And that was good. It was good to see her upset about not winning. Unlike for most 16-year-olds, theres not much room left on Wies resume for any more victories of the moral variety.
Wies third-place showing didnt exactly justify her third-place position on the newly unveiled Womens World Golf Ranking, but thats another topic for another story.
On this occasion, Wie has little for which to apologize. For the day, she made seven birdies and one bogey for a closing 66. Pressel, meanwhile, had three birdies and two bogeys for a 71 and a tie for 11th.
When Meena Lee, in the group right behind Wie and Pressel, birdied 18 to post 14 under and effectively end Wies week, I reached for the remote.
But before I changed the channel, there was still one thing that I wanted to see. It wasnt to see if Natalie Gulbis could make a late run or which South Korean was going to win. I had to see if Pressel was going to cry in her post-round interview.
To her credit, Pressel did speak to The Golf Channel after signing her scorecard. But she probably should have passed.
Maybe she thought she could control her emotions this time, or maybe she didnt want to be perceived negatively had she denied the interview request.
Either way, she spoke ' and she cried. Again.
I realize that Pressel is a very emotional girl. And that shes just that: a 17-year-old girl. But enough already with the tears.
Every time she loses, she cries. She seems to take joy in defeating others, but she cant handle losing herself. Thats something shes going to have to get used to. This isnt the AJGA. Her days of domination are over, at least for the foreseeable future. Shell get a few knock-outs each year, but shes going to have to learn to take plenty of punches along the way.
She was obviously upset with her pedestrian performance. But it likely stung a little more that she was beaten so soundly by Wie.
Im sure she believed that she could and would beat Wie, regardless of whether or not she would win the tournament. And Im sure she wanted to prove to the media to the fans and to Wie that she is the better player of the two. And it would have been really sweet to do it on Wies home turf.
But it didnt happen this time, and she didnt handle the disappointment very well.
It will, however, happen at some point. At some time, possibly again this year, the two will again go head-to-head. And eventually Morgan will get the better of Michelle. The same way that Larry eventually got the better of Magic.
It may prove to be a rivalry in which Morgan and Michelle constantly 1-up one another. Or maybe one will dominate the other until the tide is turned for a similar period of time, like with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
In the last line of Casablanca, Bogart says, Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Wie and Pressel may never become best of friends, maybe just friendly rivals. And if they do, Saturday could have been the beginning of a beautiful, friendly rivalry.
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    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

    The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

    Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

    Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

    • Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

    • Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1