Leadbetter: Wie’s issues more mental than physical

By Randall MellApril 27, 2016, 10:03 pm

David Leadbetter has never worked with a player like Michelle Wie.

She fascinates and frustrates him. She intrigues and infuriates him. She makes him both marvel and worry over the possibilities she still possesses.

Leadbetter says he loves Wie like a daughter, and it’s why he isn’t afraid to say things she might not like to hear. They’ve been to hell and back together since she was 13.

It’s why as Wie works through yet another physical malady getting ready for Thursday’s start of the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, Leadbetter isn’t afraid to say Wie’s head is as much a key to unlocking her potential as her body is.

“For me, it’s more a mental thing with Michelle now rather than physical,” Leadbetter told GolfChannel.com. “She has to come to terms with what she wants to do, what she wants to achieve and how she wants to achieve it.

“She is very low on confidence right now. She really hasn’t had any good tournaments to speak of this year. She played OK at the ANA, but the last few months certainly haven’t been to anybody’s liking.”

Leadbetter is not saying the physical maladies Wie faces again are not real.

Wie, 26, withdrew from the Swinging Skirts Classic after 15 holes Sunday with neck spasms. She was 11 over par when she walked off the course. It marked three missed cuts and one WD in her seven full-field starts this year. She was treated by the San Francisco 49ers team chiropractor before leaving California and again by the LPGA’s physiotherapists at the tour’s sports medicine trailer at the Texas Shootout after arriving for the event this week. She abandoned the neck brace she was given to play a nine-hole practice round Tuesday and a nine-hole pro-am round Wednesday.

“She doesn’t know how she hurt her neck, whether she slept on it funny or what,” Leadbetter said. “It got to the point where she could hardly turn her neck at all, and if you can’t rotate your neck, you’re going to have trouble rotating your spine. She’s just very injury prone. I call her a walking cadaver. I’m not sure she hasn’t had any part of her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury.”

Wie said Wednesday her neck is feeling better, and she’s expecting to play this week.

“It’s just weird the way the injury came about,” she said. “I was worried I wouldn't be able to play, but I saw my chiropractor, and I've been working with the physios on tour, and it's been feeling a lot better.”

Leadbetter knows the backlash Wie will get teeing it up again just four days after her withdrawal.

“I have no doubt it was a genuine injury,” he said.

Wie battled left hip, knee and ankle injuries most of last season. She endured a deep bone bruise in the index finger of her right hand after winning the U.S. Women’s Open the year before. She has battled through injuries to both of her wrists, through a severely sprained ankle and through a bulging disc in her back in the past.

Leadbetter believes Wie’s short, tightly coiled swing led to her hip, knee and ankle injuries last year, and while he isn’t saying her neck spasms are related, he still sees her putting stress on her body with her swing in ways that worry him. At this year’s start, Leadbetter delivered Wie a “tough-love message,” asking her to quit relentlessly tinkering with her swing and to commit to sticking with a more free flowing motion, with a bigger hip turn that would promote a more rhythmic tempo. Wie likes to restrict her hips and tightly coil around them. Leadbetter is still seeing more of that this year than he likes.

“Overall, her swing is more nice and full,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t have these short punches going, but she’s still tinkering a little bit more than I would like. We’ve been trying to get her natural and flowing, but Michelle has her own ideas about how things should be done. She is a very determined, single-minded person. Some of the things, I’m not in total agreement with, but in the end she has to make the decision. Again, I do like the fact that she’s back to a full swing.”

What concerns Leadbetter is how Wie is still coiling so hard around a restricted hip turn.

“I would like to see more lower body movement,” Leadbetter said. “It’s amazing she can swing it back as far as she does with that limited amount of hip rotation. The hip movement gives you your rhythm, your flow and alleviates any tendency to have lower body injuries.

“In her youth, Michelle had the ability to have a full windup with zero hip turn. You look at players today, and for the most part, there is a 45-degree hip rotation. Michelle has about a 15-degree hip rotation.”

Leadbetter said Wie won the U.S. Women’s Open and Lotte Championship two years ago with that tight coil around a limited hip turn. She looked close to dominating with her ball striking in that four- to five-month run, but even then Leadbetter worried what the violent torque was doing to her body.

What Leadbetter likes is the desire he still sees in Wie, the determination to find the sharp ball striking that led to her resurgence of confidence in 2014.

“I read all this nonsense that she has lost her desire, and that's a bunch of hooey,” Leadbetter said. “She works her butt off.

“She is an intriguing character, almost maddening and infuriating, because I know how good this girl is, what she can do. You just want to somehow push her, say `Come on, let's see if we can get to that level we know you're capable of.’ I'm sure it's got to be frustrating to her, and to her parents, because she has these glimpses, but then all of a sudden, it's like it disappears. It would be a heck of a story if she really gets hot again, but I can tell you she is not out there quitting.”

Leadbetter is there helping, sometimes with words Wie doesn’t want to hear.

“You just never know when someone’s game is going to rebound,” Leadbetter said. “Hopefully, she gets a couple good runs under her belt going and that gives her a little bit of confidence. That's really what she needs more than anything else right now.”

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.