For Wie, another day, another putting stance

By Randall MellMarch 16, 2017, 10:23 pm

Updated 9:15 p.m.

PHOENIX – Some aches are actually good for you.

Michelle Wie knows this.

The ache she felt blowing the final-round lead at the HSBC Women’s Champions in her last start was almost as energizing as it was dispiriting.

After all the misery endured trying to work back from injury and slumps the last two-and-a-half seasons, Wie left Singapore encouraged about finally giving herself a chance to win again.

Yeah, there was pain slapping around that four-putt on the front nine of that final round, squandering a two-shot lead, but there was a thrill in remembering what it was like trying to close out a victory.

Wie rode the confidence gained in Singapore to a fast start Thursday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, the LPGA’s American opener.

Wie shot a 7-under-par 65 at Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club to take a share of the lead with Vicky Hurst and Jane Park through the morning wave. She'd finish the day one off the 8-under pace set by Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, In Gee Chun and Sandra Changkija.

“I was disappointed on Sunday,” Wie said. “I was sad. It definitely stung. You always want to win. At the same time, I played great on Sunday. Just a couple putts didn’t go in.”

Halfway through Thursday, Wie looked on track to having led three of the last five rounds played on the LPGA tour.

“I felt really good after Singapore,” Wie said. “I was so proud of myself for putting myself there. I was so confident all week, and it felt great to be confident again, to be in contention.”

After missing the cut at the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas, Wie found something.

She found a little baby cut that’s been dependable, and she found yet another unorthodox putting style.

Wie hit 12 of 14 fairways Thursday and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. She was bombing her driver deep down the middle of fairways. She averaged 291 yards per drive in the first round, longer than everyone but Lexi Thompson in the morning wave.

“When you are hitting it 290 and hitting a lot of fairways, you make the game a hell of a lot easier,” said David Leadbetter, Wie’s long-time swing coach.

Mostly, Wie was making putts again on Thursday, always an encouraging sign with her past struggles on the greens. She rolled in a 15-foot eagle putt at the fifth. She made seven birdies on the day against two bogeys, taking just 26 putts.

“The big thing is she is really excited about playing again,” Leadbetter said. “You can feel the confidence coming back.”

Wie’s putting remains weird science, but she likes the stroke she and Leadbetter are currently honing.

Don’t ask her to explain it, though.

“I have no idea,” she said. “At this point, I can't describe anything I do while I putt.”

After a terrible start on the greens in the season opener at the Bahamas, Wie finally ditched her unorthodox “table-top” stance. She went to a more upright stance, with a claw grip, but she ditched that after her second start at the Women’s Australian Open. She went to Singapore with the same upright stance, but with a conventional grip, with her elbows spread wide.

“It’s like a claw setup without the claw grip,” Leadbetter said. “She uses her right elbow like a fulcrum. It’s like a violinist’s elbow, how it’s bent and how it stays bent. So, it’s like she’s making the claw stroke without the claw grip.”

Wie still uses the claw grip in practice sessions, but she doesn’t feel completely comfortable with it in competition,

“I practice with it,” Wie said. “I love the way my stroke goes.”

Wie has put herself in early contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since she won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst in 2014. She is playing this year out of category 3 on the LPGA priority list, which is reserved for members who are major champions. She slipped to 105th on the money list last year, which cost her full LPGA status.

Wie experienced a lot of aches, physical and emotional the last two seasons. Singapore brought a promising kind of ache.

“Every experience you get, you learn from it, and I learned a lot from it,” Wie said. “Hopefully, I use the experience here in the upcoming events.”

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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.