Breakthrough Coming

By Randall MellJune 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. ' Michelle Wies quietly regaining her mojo.
Thats what swing coach David Leadbetter sees as Wie prepares for the McDonalds LPGA Championship.
While critics wonder if Wie will ever realize her vast potential, Leadbetter senses a breakthrough coming.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie finished second as a 15-year-old at the 2005 McDonald's LPGA. (Getty Images)
Leadbetter may be in the Wie camp, but that doesnt blind him to his students weaknesses. In fact, over the years, he hasnt pulled his punches when assessing her game and choices.
Michelle is starting to hit it a lot better, very, very solidly, Leadbetter said. Were really happy with the way shes swinging. Shes putting better. More than anything now, its the mental side of the game she needs to work on. Sometimes, she makes poor decisions.
Leadbetter would love to see Wie claim her first victory at the McDonalds LPGA Championship.
The irony wouldnt be lost on him.
It would be fitting, he said.
Wie built resentment among LPGA members with all the sponsor exemptions she garnered as a non-member. None was more controversial than the one she received to play in the McDonalds LPGA Championship in 2005. Thats the members championship, and there was a proud tradition in that, but the LPGA changed its rules to invite Wie, the top amateur. She finished second as a 15-year-old that year.
As an LPGA rookie who won exempt status in qualifying school last winter, Wie takes great pride in having earned her membership.
I still feel like I have to improve a lot, Wie said. I feel like Im nowhere near where I could be. I still feel like Im learning something new about the game every day.
Val Skinner, a six-time LPGA winner, sees Wie still learning how to win. Wie hasnt won a tournament since the 2003 U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links Championship, when she was 13.
I think Michelle needs a little deeper reserve when stress hits her with the putter, Skinner said. Where you see her lose a little bit of confidence is putting. That extra gear you go to over a 3-footer, thats her missing link in my view. Winning all those junior tournaments, that gave Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel a strong reserve.
Skinner finds herself looking for something else in Wie, too.
The great players, like Nancy Lopez, Kathy Whitworth and Annika Sorenstam, had a burning desire to be great, Skinner said. I think its in there with Michelle. She has all the tools to get to that place, but the one thing Im wondering is whether shes dug it out of the dirt enough times. Or has it been too easy a ride with too many exemptions? Thats what it comes down to. When its your turn and youre over a 4-footer, can you get it done? Is that goal deep enough that you will do whatever it takes to keep making that reserve deeper and deeper?
'Thats what Lorena Ochoa has. Lorena spent the season before last working on her short game two or three hours, taking a break, then going back at it for three or four hours.
Like Leadbetter, two-time LPGA winner Christina Kim sees a breakthrough coming.
People doubt Michelle, Kim said. Not gonna say nothing, but I dont doubt her.
In 17 major championships starts, Wie has six finishes of fifth or better, but none since 2006, since injuring her wrists, but she reports those injuries no longer bother her.
Feeling healthy, feeling good, waking up every morning and being excited to play, its just amazing, Wie said.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Getty Images

    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.