Big changes lead to Wie's breakthrough win

By Randall MellJune 23, 2014, 12:45 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Michelle Wie didn’t just give us a defining moment Sunday in her breakthrough victory in a major championship.

Her U.S. Women’s Open victory was too massive in importance to the women’s game to be contained in a single moment.

No, she gave us a pair of poignant bookend moments that served as the perfect microcosm of her golfing life. She did so in the pivotal turn of fortune at the 16th and 17th holes.

The 16th is where the game knocked her down, and the 17th is where she got up off the mat and threw the knockout punch that won her first major championship.

The 16th is where it looked as if she was going to fail to deliver on all the promise she built in a Sunday of masterful course management. It’s where she pushed a shot right of the green and nearly lost it in a thick patch of wire grass. It’s where a frantic scramble finally ended with the discovery of her embedded ball.

An unplayable lie, a penalty drop and a double bogey left Wie with a slim one-shot lead on Rolex world No. 1 Stacy Lewis, who was in the clubhouse looking as if she just might already have one hand on the Harton S. Semple trophy.

U.S. Women’s Open: Articles, videos and photos

Wie, though, followed with the most thrilling birdie of her life at the par-3 17th, rolling in a 25-foot putt that ignited a roar echoing beyond the entire village of Pinehurst and into every corner of women’s golf.

“She shook off what happened at the 16th pretty quickly,” said Duncan French, her caddie. “It was a massive bounce back.”

With a two-putt for par at the last, Wie brought home a two-shot victory over Lewis.

“That’s Michelle,” Lewis said. “She’s a fighter. She never gives up.”

And that’s really the story of more than Sunday’s victory for Wie.

“I’m so happy I can’t think straight,” Wie said.

Wie, 24, almost won one of these trophies when she was 16, but the can’t-miss prodigy did miss more than anyone thought as an embattled teen phenom growing up.

All the promise she showed contending in women’s majors before she could even drive a car got lost in a series of disappointing turns. There were injuries. There was a broken wrist, a severe ankle sprain and bulging disc in her back. There was lost confidence when her swing went awry in bad habits trying to play through injury.

Through it all, there was suffocating scrutiny, escalating pressure and unrelenting criticism of her parents’ intense involvement in every facet of her game.

Wie said all of that made Sunday so much more meaningful.

“I think life is just so ironic," Wie said. "I think that without your downs, without the hardships, I don't think you appreciate the ups as much as you do. I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period of my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15.

“I learned a lot. I am just so grateful for that, just because of everything I've been through. I feel extremely lucky.”

A little more than a year ago, Wie had plummeted to No. 100 in the Rolex world rankings. She’ll jump to No. 7 this week, thanks to her second victory of the season.

While Lewis might be the best player in the women’s game, Wie is the biggest star. Her resurging status is good for the sport. She brings more eyeballs to the TV and more spectators to tournaments. Her peers get this.

“Michelle Wie winning, I don't think you can script it any better,” Lewis said. “I think it's great for the game of golf. I think it's even better for women's golf.”

Wie could easily have lost this championship with the errant approach at the 16th. Her heart and spirit were tested as much as her skill.

“I learned from the past, in those situations,” Wie said. “For sure, you can go down the road and go, `Oh, my God, I'm going to make a triple. I'm going to make a quadruple. What's going to happen? I'm going to lose the U.S. Open.’ I just shut that off. And I'm just really proud of myself for being able to do that.”

Wie might remember the 16th as the best double bogey of her life. She had to make a nervy 5-foot putt to keep a one-shot lead on Lewis.

“I think the thing I’m most proud of is that I just didn’t let it get away from me,” Wie said.

Wie won this championship long before she got here.

She won it taking charge of her game inside and outside the ropes. She won it going to an unorthodox “table-top” putting stroke that nobody outside her family seemed to like. She won it taking the reins of her career away from her parents. Back at the season opener in the Bahamas, she traveled to a tournament for the first time without her parents.

“Sometimes, she rebels,” David Leadbetter, her swing coach, told back in February after the season opener. “She’s a young woman now, and she has demanded more freedom.”

Leadbetter predicted a rebirth for Wie back then, the start of what would be remembered as her second career.

Lewis saw it, and so did other players. She saw it in the way Wie stuck with her unorthodox putting stroke. She saw it in the way she was handling her parents. She saw it in the way she blocks out all the scrutiny and criticism she gets.

“I think it’s the way she can make decisions without caring what anyone thinks,” Lewis said.

Wie’s decisions are carrying her back to the top of her sport, and a lot of people who love the women’s game believe she can take the rest of women’s golf to heights it has never been.

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Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.