Quick Round with David Leadbetter

By Randall MellNovember 21, 2009, 5:05 am
David Leadbetter has been working with Michelle Wie practically since she began making national news as a 12-year-old.

They’ve been through a lot together, from her burst onto the national scene as a young phenom with a dream of playing against PGA Tour pros through her swoon after a pair of wrist injuries three seasons ago to her breakthrough LPGA victory this year.

Senior writer Randall Mell connected with Leadbetter for a quick round earlier this week, before Wie’s ankle injuries worsened and caused her withdrawal from the LPGA Tour Championship on Thursday:

David Leadbetter
David Leadbetter has been coaching Michelle Wie since she was 12. (Getty Images)
What was your reaction to Michelle’s breakthrough victory last weekend and what it means to women’s golf?

I’ve always believed in her. I knew the talent she had and that it was just a matter of time. I think it’s a great thing for the LPGA. If players are smart, they realize she’s a special talent who ultimately can really help them, in Tiger-like fashion. The LPGA needs a jump start. It’s obviously had some issues losing tournaments and with the economy and so on, and she can certainly help stimulate things. When she is playing well there is nobody in the women’s game who draws crowds and creates interest like she does, regardless. There are a tremendous number of good players, but she is a story, and she’s been a story for a long while for the right reasons and the wrong reasons, nevertheless a story.

Did you feel the relief she felt finally winning?

I felt `thank goodness.’ It’s been a huge, huge cross to bear for her. She’s had so much thrown at her. There are so many experts out there who think they know how to do it. Let’s face it, she’s made mistakes, who hasn’t? She went about it a little differently. You hear about all the parental control, but part of it is cultural. They are a very close-knit family. They have their little deals as most families do, but Michelle is her own person. She is the one who decided she wanted to go to college and that she wanted to play PGA Tour events. She was encouraged, but she is very strong-minded, very strong-willed. I knew the victory was going to come, it was just a matter of when. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be this year with the injury.

The left ankle injury clearly bothered her at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, but it didn’t stop her.

I think the expectations weren’t as high because of the injury. We did some stuff on Internet before she left, and (her swing) wasn’t looking very good. She made an adjustment in her stance to try to alleviate the pain in her foot. She opened her foot way up, which was causing some problems. I said, 'Listen, I know you have to live through this pain, but you have to get this foot squared up.’ She did that. She was driving the ball well there. She said she was more comfortable with the driver last week than she’s been in a long time.

The ankle injury must have put you on guard, because you saw how detrimental her wrist injuries were to her swing in 2007. You were outspoken about how you thought she was coming back too quickly. In fact, you haven’t been afraid to tell Michelle or her parents things they might not want to hear.

I haven’t always agreed with all their decisions, and I’ve been vocal about that. I’ve been around, and I’ve seen what helps create success and what helps create problems. I’d be the first to admit they did some things that in retrospect they wouldn’t do if they had to do it over again, like not playing in so many men’s events. I think they respect me enough that I can say things. I’m close to them and part of the inner circle.

Her last year of high school (in 2006), she went over to play the European Masters (on the men’s European Tour), and I think she finished dead last. She was fatigued, swinging out of her shoes, her wrists were already giving her some issues, some tendinitis. Then she went out and played in the 84 Lumber Classic the next week (and missed the cut by 13 shots) on the longest course of the year. Now, she’s just played two events against men, she’s very fatigued, but her work ethic comes into it. She’s deciding she’s going to work this out, and then she breaks her wrist training. It wasn’t rehabbed properly.

When she came back, there was just no way she should have played, but it was enthusiasm on Michelle’s part. It was her competitive spirit saying I can do this, but it was nuts. She’s a player who wants to play. It’s hard for a player to be on the sideline, it’s really hard. She wasn’t healed, she wasn’t strong, she developed some bad habits as a result and when you do that there are mental issues and you lose confidence.

How did that affect her?

She was down about her game, and she just wasn’t a happy person. She’s genuinely a very happy person who loves life and is always laughing, but she was miserable then. You can understand that.

How did she bounce back?

It’s a case where she worked her way back. She went back to ground zero so to speak. She had to rebuild her credibility, and she did that. She went through tour school.

You said her ability to get away from golf helped her bounce back. She has interest in art and fashion and as a fan of other sports.

She’s happy now. That’s important. She didn’t like golf for awhile, but golf doesn’t rule her life. She likes doing other things. To some extent, these other things are going to give her a fairly long career. The concern I have in so many young players is they are going to get burned out. That’s a concern I have for a lot of young players. There’s such a rush to get so good so young and so fast. Tiger Woods has great balance in his life. Jack Nicklaus did too. Michelle has that balance.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.