Wie keeps good times rolling into college grounds

By Randall MellApril 21, 2014, 1:45 pm

Michelle Wie couldn’t have landed in a better place to rebound from her loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Returning to her Hawaiian home this past week, with an entire state eager to embrace her, she responded with some of the most brilliant golf of her career, coming from four shots behind in the final round Saturday to win the Lotte Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club, the course she grew up playing.

“I definitely cried a little bit last night,” Wie said on Sunday in a teleconference. “It truly was a dream come true to win my first tournament on U.S. soil in my hometown, with all my friends and family watching.”

And now Wie, 24, couldn’t land in a better place to follow up her first win in nearly four years. Wie heads to San Francisco this week to play in the Swinging Skirts Invitational at Lake Merced Golf Club. She’s returning to the Bay Area for the first time since she graduated from Stanford two years ago.

“I haven’t been back to Stanford since I graduated,” Wie said. “Hopefully, I’ll have time to visit.”

Wie is planning to have dinner on Monday night in San Francisco with some of the friends she made while at Stanford. She still raves about her time there, at how happy she was and how much she grew up.

“I definitely miss school,” Wie said. “I’d like to go back to school at some point - not now, obviously.”

"Feherty" visits Michelle Wie at Stanford

Going to Stanford and getting a degree was a childhood dream of Wie’s. Suddenly, so many other dreams are coming back into focus. With her resurgence this year, she’s regaining form that makes her look as if she will become a considerable threat for some of the top prizes in the women’s game this year.

“I have dreams, long-term goals,” Wie said.

Good luck getting them out of her. She’s smartly sticking to the mantra that’s working so well for her this year. She keeps saying she just wants to be more consistent. She knows doing so will bring larger goals into play. It’s working like a charm.

Wie heads to San Francisco first in LPGA money winnings ($616,555), first in scoring (69.57), first in hitting greens in regulation (81 percent) and first in rounds under par (25).

“I’m really in a good place with my swing right now,” Wie said.

Winning Saturday in Hawaii, Wie formidably dissected Ko Olina Golf Club in difficult winds. She split the middle of so many fairways with that low, screaming stinger 3-wood of hers. She hit 10 of 14 fairways in the final round. She hit 15 greens in regulation, and she needed just 28 putts.

“Michelle had everything under control,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “She really has all her ducks in a row now. She’s just going to get better and better and really fulfill her star potential, I think.”

It isn’t just the crispness of ball striking that has Leadbetter so excited about Wie’s game. It’s what he feels radiating out of her heart again.

“She’s in love with the game again,” Leadbetter said. “Her whole attitude’s changed, tremendously.”

After graduating from Stanford, Wie was expected to elevate her game with her focus no longer divided. She didn’t. In fact, she slumped. In 2012, she missed the cut 10 times in the 16 events she played where there were cuts. She missed five cuts in a row.

Wie said at Kraft Nabisco that her frustration mounted seeing no rewards for all the hard work she was putting into her game. There was no fun in that.

“It was sad,” Leadbetter said. “She was working hard, putting in more hours on the range, and nothing was happening. She was desperately trying to make something happen. She was forcing things. Once you start losing confidence, it’s hard.”

Leadbetter said he saw the frustrations choking Wie’s love of the game. While Wie’s game showed signs of rebounding in 2013, Leadbetter sensed a weariness in her. At year’s end, he told her to take five weeks off without touching a club. She went home to Hawaii feeling funny because she didn’t pack a usual staple on all her trips.

“I didn’t bring my clubs home,” Wie said. “It was strange. I kind of had some anxiety about it.”

Wie said she worked out hard during her five weeks away from golf, did a lot of yoga and hiked a lot. When she returned to Florida to see Leadbetter for a preseason boot camp before starting this year, she was revitalized. They picked up with changes that were working late in the ’13 season.

Leadbetter said he saw a spark returning to Wie’s game at the Solheim Cup late last summer. He saw all the pieces of her revitalized game coming together in her run at the Kraft Nabisco two weeks ago. He really saw it in her final-round charge in her victory at the Lotte Championship.

“It was great to see her so full of confidence,” Leadbetter said. “She was just beaming.”

Leadbetter said people never understood how the injuries Wie has endured through the years hurt her game. They changed her swing. Wie broke three bones in her left wrist in ’07 in a fall. Leadbetter had to rebuild her swing after that.

“I don’t think there’s been enough said about how many injuries she’s had and how they hurt her golf swing,” said four-time major championship winner Meg Mallon, who captained Wie in the Solheim Cup last summer. “She had to revamp her swing because she couldn’t bend her wrists very much.”

Wie tried to play through a severely sprained ankle in 2009. She tried to play through a bulging disc in her back late in 2010

Through all these injuries, there were emotional injuries, too. Wie, her parents and her managers made mistakes. There was disrespect withdrawing from Annika Sorenstam’s tournament in the middle of a round in ’07, with Wie citing injury when it appeared she was going to fail to shoot better than 88, a high score that would have disqualified her from playing in an LPGA event for a year. The next day, she was seen hitting balls at the site of the following week’s LPGA event.

With other questionable decisions, there came unrelenting criticism that Wie was entitled and over-hyped, that she was an underachieving failure who would never fulfill the promise projected for her.

“You have to have a thick skin to endure the kind of negativity that’s been directed at Michelle, and the negative things that continue to be said about her,” said Hall of Famer Beth Daniel, who captained Wie on the ’09 U.S. Solheim Cup team. “The criticism really hasn’t stopped. Yes, she won this week, but if she goes out and doesn’t play well next week, there will be more negativity. I think the expectations are so high for her, and it hurts when there’s criticism because of it.

“I really think that Michelle has one of the most positive attitudes in the game. I think that is what gets her through all of this.”

Wie was asked if her win Saturday made her to want to strike back at all the critics who doubted she’d ever win again.

“No,” she said. “People are entitled to opinions. I have opinions about people myself. I’m just so happy to win my first tournament on American soil in my hometown. I’m just happy about that, and I’m grateful. All the ups and downs I’ve been through, especially the downs, have really made me who I am today. It’s made me grateful. Without the downs, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today.”

So happy, Wie cried when Saturday’s win fully sank in.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.