Randall's Rant: Wie still the LPGA's biggest star

By Randall MellMarch 6, 2017, 6:03 pm

If Michelle Wie had Inbee Park’s putting touch and a less brittle body, the women’s game would surge to a new level of popularity.

For all her critics, and she has a load of them, Wie still has a huge, loyal following. No player in the women’s game elicits stronger feelings when in contention, or evokes more curiosity when her name hits a leaderboard. We were reminded of that in Singapore.

Yes, Wie may get as many viewers tuning in to see her fail as see her succeed, but more are going to watch.

Like it or not, Wie is still the LPGA’s most compelling figure.

Yeah, I can hear all you cursing me out now, but Wie’s rise to the top of the leaderboard through 54 holes at the HSBC Women’s Champions held more potential to help the LPGA reach outside its fan base than any other possible outcome. (Cheyenne Woods has that, too, but she wasn’t playing and isn’t nearly as decorated a player.)

Park put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Singapore. From her stellar ball striking to her phenomenal putting, Park looked like a Hall of Famer poised to make more history.

Park is a treasure, underappreciated for her skill and for her thoughtful opinions within the game. Lydia Ko is saintly, with as strong a mind as a heart. Ariya Jutanugarn is a machine, a spectacle with her gifts of power and touch.

Nobody, though, would have generated more headlines outside the golf niche with a victory Sunday than Wie.

How many were staying up late just to see if Wie could resurrect all the hype that followed her emergence as a teen phenom and was later rekindled when she won the U.S. Women’s Open? How many fans turned off their TV sets when Wie four-putted the fifth hole in the final round in Singapore?

The rise of young stars like Ko, Jutanugarn, Lexi Thompson, In Gee Chun, Brooke Henderson and Ha Na Jang have helped LPGA commissioner Mike Whan take the LPGA to another level internationally.

Whan has the tour right there on another potential golden age, but the sport’s still lacking the one quality that will take it to a new stratosphere. It’s lacking a bona-fide superstar who breaks out of the golf niche. It’s lacking a Serena Williams, a dominant figure sports fans can’t take their eyes off inside or outside the ropes.

Commissioners can’t design or orchestrate an asset like that. It falls in their laps.

Wie may have turned a corner in Singapore, finding a reliable swing and a better putting stroke, but at 27 we still aren’t sure what she’s got left. We aren’t sure she can overcome the glitches that pop up in her putting stroke, the tinkering that robs consistency.

After missing the cut or withdrawing from 14 of her last 27 events heading to the HSBC Women’s Champions, Wie looks like she’s at least found her way out of the wilderness. She has some confidence coming back to her, and that isn’t just good for her; it’s good for the game.

Given Wie’s injury history, her slumps and inconsistency, it is difficult to imagine her ever getting to No. 1, especially with all the young talent piling up in front of her. It is difficult imagining her sustaining a level of excellence over the time required to get to No. 1.

It’s not difficult, however, to imagine her winning another major. It’s not difficult to imagine her reaching the peaks in short bursts that are required to do that. If she could putt well enough to win a U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst three years ago, there’s no reason she can’t do it again in other majors.

Win or lose, it’s good for the LPGA when Wie’s got a fighting chance.

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.