Wie focused on getting better after 'fun' offseason

By Randall MellJanuary 26, 2015, 10:35 pm

OCALA, Fla. – Michelle Wie hiked small mountains in Hawaii and Arizona in the offseason.

She made a guest appearance in the filming of a “Hawaii Five-0” episode that will air Feb. 20.

“I’m officially an actress now,” she cracked Monday at the Coates Golf Championship, the LPGA’s season opener. “I was going to go to the SAG Awards, but, you know ...”

She spent Christmas in New York, scoring front-row seats at a Knicks game, where she met Michael J. Fox and Cedric the Entertainer. She beat Charles Barkley in a game of beer pong. She spent New Year’s in the Bahamas, did a Nike shoot and also traveled to California to see friends.

“I was in a lot of airplanes,” Wie said.

Wie went almost six weeks without touching a club this offseason, other than for photographs for the Nike shoot.

The common denominator in all of this?

“I had so much fun,” Wie said. “I definitely feel refreshed.”

You need that when you’re about to resume the rigorous pursuit of Stacy Lewis, the best American in the game. The last three weeks for Wie have pretty much been devoted to keeping up with Lewis, literally and figuratively.

Wie and Lewis live in South Florida, where they both train under David Donatucci at the Florida Institute of Performance in Palm Beach Gardens. While they’ve become friends, Wie can’t help keeping track of Lewis out of the corner of her eye when they’re at the institute together. Wie joked about that after a practice round Monday at Golden Ocala.

“We come at the same times,” Wie said. “One day, we actually had the same workout. I was like, `Wait a second, I think I’m doing that next.’ I made sure I did the same weights as her.”

Wie, who looks so much physically stronger than the more petite Lewis, said it’s not easy keeping up with the weights Lewis uses.

“She kills at the gym,” Wie said. “She did this one exercise with the hand gripper, and she had, I think, almost 90 pounds on it. I got there, and I’m like, `This can’t be right.’ ... Oh my God, it was so hard. But I was determined to do the same weights as her.”

Wie broke through for her best year as a pro last season, winning the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in April and then the U.S. Women’s Open in June. If not for a finger injury in the second half of the season, she might have made a stronger run at Lewis for Rolex Player of the Year. Wie missed almost three months last year with the injury.

“My top priority this year is to stay healthy,” Wie said.

Wie will need to be at her best to challenge Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Lydia Ko and No. 3 Lewis as the best players in the game. With her big year, Wie moved to No. 6 in the world rankings. While she says her focus is on getting better and being more consistent, she knows who she has to beat to take the game’s biggest prizes.

Seeing Lewis work so hard in the gym is a constant reminder.

“We’re very competitive,” Wie said. “We definitely want to beat each other, but at the same time I’m very proud of her accomplishments. She inspires me, she motivates me, but it’s great to see a fellow American doing so well, and she’s such a great person . . . . It’s never competitive to the point where we want to tear each other down.”

There are highly competitive natures at work there, but mutual admiration, too. That came through when Wie held off Lewis in a tight battle to win the U.S. Women’s Open. Afterward, Lewis talked about how she respects and even learns from the way Wie handles scrutiny and criticism.

“I think the biggest thing for Michelle is she’s grown in confidence, and her ability to just kind of take control of her life and her game,” Lewis said. “That’s what you’re seeing, somebody that knows how to practice, knows how to prepare, knows what she needs to do in her off weeks, knows when she needs to shut it down and go to the beach and hang out with her friends. She’s learning how to take control of her life, and that’s what you’re seeing on the course.

“You’re seeing a happy kid going out there, that’s super talented, that hasn’t played her best golf yet, and I’m excited to see what she does, because I think she’s going to raise the bar even higher the next couple years.”

Lewis sees balance making Wie more formidable.

“I’m excited for this year,” Wie said. “Just working on building upon last year . . . I want to be consistent, but at the same time I want to get a little bit better each and every day, not make a huge stride, not try to be a lot better every day. If I just kind of move forward just a little bit, even if it’s really, really slow, that’s all I want to do.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.