Wies Aspirations Not Too Far-Fetched
Annie triumphed in a USGA test that made Tigers win at Bethpage look like a walk in the park (which, technically, it was). Thurman was one of 144 women who qualified nationwide to play in the W.A.P.L. at the Sunriver golf resort in Oregon. Thirty-six holes over two days cut the field to 64 for match play. Then, two matches on Thursday and two more on Friday, just to make it to the semifinals. Saturday was a relative breather, with just the one 18-hole match to qualify for Sundays final. Then 36 holes to win the national championship.
For the two finalists ' Annie and Hwanhee Lee ' thats nine rounds of golf, under extreme pressure, in just six days. So what were those guys complaining about at Bethpage?
Thurman and Lee made a bit of history in their championship match. For the first time in the W.A.P.L.s history, the final match was scheduled for 36, not 18, holes. It was a bit anti-climatic, with Thurman cruising to a 6 and 5 victory.
Lee, another 19-year-old from Southern California, had averaged just one bogey per round during her previous matches. But the sophomore at the University of Nevada Las Vegas bogeyed five of the first 11 holes. My spirit just left my body, she said. I dont know what happened to me today.
During that same opening stretch, Thurman posted 11 consecutive pars. Annie proved that, once again, par is a very good score in a USGA Championship. Even par through 11 and five-up.
Thats all I was trying to do, Annie said. Hit the fairways, stay out of that USGA rough and make pars. The champ added, I knew that would put all the pressure on my opponent.
With apologies to the two teen-aged finalists, the true star of this championship was a pre-teen who lost to Lee in the semis. Thats right a pre-teen!
Michelle Wie, a 12-year-old from Hawaii, made it all the way to the semi-finals and this was the third time she played in the W.A.P.L. Yup, Michelle first played for this national title when she was TEN.
This lovely young lady seems to be a cant-miss star of the very near future. She stands six feet tall and could pass as a runway model. Her flowing, graceful swing is one of perfect balance and immense power. Michelle averages 290 yards off the tee. AVERAGES. During the week at Sunriver, she unleashed several drives that measured more than 320. If there is any glaring weakness that was evident at the W.A.P.L., it is Michelles putting. She often looked uncomfortable over pressure putts. But, lest we forget, shes TWELVE! I mean, how good were you at pressure putts in national competition during the summer between seventh and eighth grade?
We should get to see quite a bit more of this extremely poised young lady this summer. She and her parents plan to stay on the mainland for the next few months as Michelle plays the amateur circuit. After her eye-popping performance in Sunriver, the USGA is considering the unprecedented move of granting Wie a special exemption to play in the USGA Junior Girls. I make a point of including Girls in the title, because Michelle is certainly ready to take on all challengers from either sex.
She cried tears of disappointment after losing to Lee in the semi-final. Michelle wants desperately to win the Womens Publinx, but not as much as she wants to win the Mens. You see Michelle Wie wants to be the first woman to play in the Masters. The Mens Publinx champion gets invited to Augusta National. And why not consider the possibility? After all, Michelle already hits the ball farther than 90 percent of the men at the Masters. So look out Tiger. Remember, shes only 12.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.