Wie fit and fired up for Solheim Cup success

By Randall MellSeptember 16, 2015, 5:57 pm

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – Michelle Wie’s first breakout performance as a professional came at the Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms six years ago.

Just a rookie back then, Wie was a controversial American captain’s pick under intense scrutiny by a legion of critics who believed she was an overly hyped talent who had yet to earn the right to play.

Under pressure, Wie was a tour de force for captain Beth Daniel, delivering an MVP-like performance.

Wie was 3-0-1 helping the Americans easily defeat Europe.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster was a part of that team, and she was so impressed with the shots Wie hit under pressure that she predicted another breakout performance wasn’t far away for Wie. She predicted Wie would win before the year was out.

Inkster was right.

Almost three months after the Solheim Cup, Wie won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, her first LPGA title.

As Wie’s captain at the Solheim Cup this week, Inkster sees more magic in her crystal ball.

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Capsules: United States | Europeans

“I still believe that Michelle hasn't even scratched her surface yet,” Inkster said. “Once she gets healthy and starts playing regularly, I think there's a lot more she's going to accomplish in golf.”

Wie reports that she is fit and ready for Friday’s start of the Solheim Cup at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club. That’s a big deal if she’s able to scrape off the rust her game’s accumulated being sidelined for so long this year with left hip, knee and ankle injuries.

“This past month, it really has been night and day,” Wie said. “I played last week with no pain, knock on wood. And this week, too.”

Wie says she isn’t all the way back, but she’s feeling strong again. She tied for 16th at the Evian Championship last weekend, showing no lingering effects from her injuries, Evian Golf Resort, built on the side of a mountain above Lake Geneva, offered a good physical test.

Inkster needs players who can go 36 holes a day in this Solheim format.

“Before Evian, I made sure I played 36 holes one day, just to see,” Wie said. “I talked to Juli. I'm like, ‘I'm good to go. You can play me as much or as little as you want.’ If Juli wants me to play five matches, I'm good to go.”

Inkster would love to see the Solheim Cup rekindle another spark under Wie, who emerged last year playing the best golf of her life.

Wie’s run last year from the Kraft Nabisco, where she lost to Lexi Thompson in a final-round duel in the year’s first major, through her Lotte Championship and U.S. Women’s Open victories, held a new kind of promise. Wie racked up eight top-10 finishes over nine starts in that run that included those two victories, a second and two third-place finishes.

Wie left Pinehurst last summer looking capable of becoming the best player in the women’s game. With her driver working, with her putting better than ever, she was a force.

All that momentum, however, was lost in health battles. There was a stress fracture in the index finger of her right hand after the U.S. Women’s Open, which plagued her most of the second half of last year. Then she opened this year with flu morphing into strep throat and then a sinus infection, derailing her start through the Asian swing. The summer was derailed yet again with bursitis in her left hip, a left knee injury and then a bone spur in her left foot.

Just six weeks ago, Wie wasn’t sure she would be ready for the Solheim Cup.

Though Wie was easily going to qualify for the American team, there was much uncertainty for Inkster over how much Wie could really help the team. That uncertainty grew to angst at the end of July when Wie withdrew from the Ricoh Women’s British Open after slipping and falling in the rain coming off the 13th tee in the second round. She re-injured her left ankle and wasn’t sure if she was even going to be ready to compete in Germany.

Wie said she was home in Jupiter, Fla., with her aching left foot propped up after a doctor’s visit when Inkster called wanting an update.

“She’s on a favorites list on my phone dial,” Inkster cracked.

Wie told Inkster she wasn’t sure she could play. It hurt Wie saying that.

“Playing for Juli just doesn’t come around again,” Wie said. “I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Three weeks after withdrawing from the Women’s British Open, Wie teed it up at the Canadian Women’s Open. She missed the cut, but she felt better. Three weeks after that, she passed the test at Evian.

“Every day, I've been really diligent about my rehab routine,” Wie said. “That has been my No. 1 priority, and I have a good routine going. I feel great as soon as I check off all of that stuff. I'm excited to be here. I'm just ecstatic to be here.”

Inkster’s ecstatic to hear that. Wie is looking like the veteran Inkster wants to send out with rookie Alison Lee this week.

Wie relishes her Solheim Cup experiences. She’s 6-5-1 overall in the matches. She says her success in the event helped her win the U.S. Women’s Open.

“I definitely used moments from Solheim to help me get through it,” Wie said. “You definitely learn a lot playing through pressure like that. And also there’s confidence, as well. Some of the shots I've pulled off at Solheim, it's definitely in my memory bank.”

Wie’s looking to build the bank with more good memories this week.

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

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 Web.com 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.

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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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."