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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.