Bunker Shots Can Wie carry the load

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2009, 11:24 pm
Blasting into the week with Michelle Wie, Q-School drama and the Race to Dubai’s finish line.

Can Wie’s strong shoulders hoist the LPGA?

Let the hype begin.

Check that.

Let the hype resume.

Even Michelle Wie’s critics have to give the player her due. She went out and earned LPGA membership at Q-School 50 weeks ago and earned her first victory last week. Earned is the operative word. She’s earning her way with so many hard lessons and hardships behind her. She persevered to earn that joy-filled moment on the 72nd hole of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last weekend. The bottom line is that most of the big names in golf were in the hunt Sunday in Mexico, and Wie outplayed them with the pressure mounting down the stretch. She knew she was protecting a one-shot lead teeing it up at the 72nd hole and closed with a birdie.

Stance: Michael Whan, the newly named LPGA commissioner, meets his constituents for the first time Tuesday night in a players' meeting. He doesn’t assume his role until Jan. 4, but players are eager to be impressed. It isn’t so much the substance of what Whan says that will matter. Remember, he told us all upon his hiring that he’s committed to listening and learning before he leads. What matters is the confidence he projects and trust he engenders. There’s real fear in the player ranks over what the future will hold. While Whan had nothing to do with the 2010 schedule, its release on Wednesday will go a long way in calming or justifying those fears.

Takeaway: No matter what the world rankings say, if Jiyai Shin wraps up Rolex Player of the Year honors this week and the LPGA money title it will open debate over who is really the best player in women’s golf. Lorena Ochoa will still be No. 1, but it will feel as if it's inevitable Shin assumes the top spot. She will have joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to win Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Shin would also be the first South Korean to win POY honors and the first to win the LPGA money title.

Bunker shot: The pressure on Wie to build on her breakthrough victory will be palpable this week. So many folks want her to succeed because she can be a Tigress Woods for the tour, relatively speaking. The tour desperately needs the jolt only she can give it because of the nature of her following. She reaches people beyond the sport in a way other players can’t. Wie’s success can benefit every LPGA pro out there by elevating the tour’s profile. As far as the extra pressure that brings, Wie has known pressure as a nearly constant companion in her young career. While there’s the danger of an emotional letdown this week, plus a sore ankle to contend with again, there’s also momentum and confidence working for her. Another Wie victory would accelerate Wie-Mania II through the long winter’s anticipation of next season.

The choking(est) stage of Q-School begins

Some familiar names are in the fight at the second stage of Q-School this week.

Shaun Micheel, winner of the 2003 PGA Championship, is in the field at Hombre Country Club in Panama City Beach, Fla. Bob May and Brian Watts, two players who nearly won majors, are scheduled to play at Oak Valley in Beaumont, Calif., and Deerwood Golf Club in Kingston, Texas, respectively. Len Mattiace, who nearly won the Masters and The Players Championship, is on the pairings sheet at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Joe Durant, a four-time PGA Tour winner, is playing Southern Hills Country Club in Brooksville, Fla. That’s also where Erik Compton is bidding to advance just 18 months after his second heart transplant surgery. Count former teen phenom Ty Tryon and PGA Tour winners Robert Gamez, Frank Lickliter, Ted Tryba and Eric Axley in that mix.

The competition stiffens considerably at second stage with more than 470 players scheduled to compete at six sites Wednesday through Saturday. About 20 players from each site will advance to the final stage Dec. 2-7 at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Stance: You will see more choking at second stage than any other stage of Q-School. Second stage is more nerve-racking than final stage because at least there’s a safety net at the final stage. Everyone who advances to final stage is assured of some kind of status next year on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour. Players who fail to advance from second stage are looking at playing smaller developmental or mini-tours or going overseas.

Takeaway: Jamie Lovemark, the 2007 NCAA champion from USC, nearly won a PGA Tour event three weeks ago and now he’s fighting to find a tour to call home next year. Lovemark, who lost in a playoff at the Frys.com Open, is playing at Deerwood Golf Club. There are no guarantees in Q-School. Danny Lee, the 2008 U.S. Amateur champ and youngest winner of a European Tour event, didn’t make it through first stage last month.

Bunker shot: There’s nothing quite like Q-School in sports, where no matter how much talent you’ve shown in the junior or collegiate ranks there are no guaranteed contracts to assure you a spot on the PGA Tour. It’s the ultimate meritocracy, where performance trumps potential. There’s no negotiating what you’re worth at a PGA Tour stop. Your scores speak the truth about your game.

McIlroy trying to lay claim as best European

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is the player to beat at the Dubai World Championship in the finale to the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

McIlroy, 20, overtook Lee Westwood in moving to the top of the season-long points race with his second-place finish Sunday at the UBS Hong Kong Open.

McIlroy, Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher are the only players who can win the Race to Dubai and the $1.5 million first-place prize from the bonus pool. Another $1.25 million goes to the winner of the Dubai World Championship.

Stance: McIlroy is in position to become the second youngest winner of the European Tour Order of Merit behind Seve Ballesteros, who was 19 when he won it in 1976. McIlroy was impressive in his limited PGA Tour starts this season, making it to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, tying for third at the PGA Championship and tying for 10th at the U.S. Open. He won the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour and is the most promising young player in the world based on his showings in the game’s biggest events.

Takeaway: After some confusing signals, McIlroy announced he will play full-time on the PGA Tour next year while remaining full time on the European Tour. Playing both tours has proven taxing to the most experienced players, but the more we see of McIlroy the better. The lad from Northern Ireland has the kind of charm that makes his appeal go beyond his game.

Bunker shot: The Race to Dubai feels like a bigger deal if a big name wins it in the inaugural season. Westwood gives it a good name if he wins this week, but McIlroy gives it a more electric future. He puts a jolt into the first season.
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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.