Patience paying off for red-hot Wie

By Randall MellJune 20, 2014, 7:56 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Michelle Wie refuses to get ahead of herself in this run into contention at another major championship, but on Friday she couldn’t deny the dream that drives her.

Asked if like most young golfers she imagined making putts that won majors while growing up, she confessed to a funny habit that follows her to this day.

“Every time I hold something, people make fun of me, because I hold it like a trophy,” Wie said.

With another 2-under-par 68 Friday, Wie moved closer to a real moment like that with the U.S. Women’s Open trophy, but she will face a familiar foe trying to get there. Closing out her morning round with back-to-back birdies at Pinehurst No. 2, Wie moved to the top of the leaderboard, three shots ahead of Lexi Thompson, who beat Wie head-to-head in a final round duel to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year’s first major. Thompson’s 68 in the afternoon moved her into a final pairing with Wie on Saturday.

Thompson was asked if she’s eager for another Sunday showdown with Wie.

“There’s a lot of golf to be played, especially at a U.S. Women's Open,” Thompson said. “So I'm going to take one shot at a time, and be patient, like I have the last two days, and see where it takes me.”

At 4-under 136, Wie will take momentum and confidence into the weekend in another bid to win her first major in her continuing resurgence in the women’s game. Wie was runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year’s first major, back in April, and she won her very next start, the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, her first victory in four years.

Wie is making a habit of jumping onto leaderboards this year, and now she’s on the most important one in women’s golf.

While Wie shared her story of hoisting imaginary trophies, she was quick to qualify it.

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

“Like I’ve said, I’m going to stay in the present,” Wie said. “It’s a long way to Sunday. Definitely, it’s always been a big dream of mine.”

Wie will be well rested for the weekend run. She said she recently started watching HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and will view a couple episodes before going to bed early Friday night.

“Like 8:30,” Wie said. “I don’t make it to 9.”

Wie played the first 36 holes of this championship like a master tactician, playing to safe havens, staying out of big trouble, holing timely big putts. Her putting, for so long an Achilles heel, is a large reason she was atop the leaderboard when she signed her scorecard Friday.

The yardage books she got from Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley helped her map out a game plan that’s working beautifully. Still, her execution is what is making it work. She is in control of her game, from tee to green.

“I think it's course management,” Wie said when asked the key to her round. “I think my caddie and I did a great job today, even if I left myself 50 foot putts for birdie. We just played it safe on a lot of holes, where you just can't really go for the pins. I think we did a good job of being aggressive and playing it safe. Course management was definitely working today.”

Wie started her round with eight consecutive pars, a run that rarely hurts a player in U.S. Women’s Open set-ups. She stayed patient before finally making her first birdie at her ninth hole (No. 18) and then coming back from her first bogey with that birdie-birdie finish. She hit a 6-iron to 12 feet at No. 8 and a pitching wedge to 15 feet at No. 9 for her closing birdies.

Wie’s best putts weren’t for birdies. They were for pars. She made a 15-footer to save par at No. 2 and a 15-footer to save par at the No. 6.

While Wie’s “table-top” putting stroke has gained a lot of attention, she says a change in attitude toward putting also has helped. She said in working with players like Fowler, Ernie Els and Camilo Villegas near her home in Jupiter, Fla., she has learned to play more fearlessly, even with a putter in hand. She said LPGA greats Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon also have helped her to quit obsessing over results.

“If it goes in, great; if it doesn't, it doesn't,” Wie said. “I'm just going to try to hit the best putt I can.

“Sometimes I worry about it too much. And I want to make it too much. To think about it. I'm going out, if I hit it the right speed, if I hit it the right line, chances are, hopefully, it will go in. That's kind of the mentality I had. I think it's been working a little bit.”

Wie would like it to work to where that U.S. Women’s Open trophy ends up in her hands.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.