Wie having fun again, leads HSBC

By Randall MellMarch 4, 2017, 3:38 pm

Cue Johnny Cash’s defiant ballad.

When I hear that trumpet sound, I’m going to rise right out of the ground.

There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.

All the folks who have been fitting Michelle Wie’s career for a coffin, take notice.

There’s a pulse.

Wie is putting all those broken pieces of her game back together yet again at the HSBC Women’s Champions.

Wie isn’t just atop any old leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round in Singapore.

She’s leading all the best and biggest names in women’s golf. The top 15 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are all there.

With a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, Wie surged ahead in a bid to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

At 14 under overall, Wie is two shots ahead of Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko (67), No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and emerging Korean sensation Sung Hyun Park (68).

Hall of Famer Inbee Park (71) and Ha Na Jang (68), the defending champ in search of her fifth victory in 12 months, are only three back.

“There definitely is some butterflies out there, but it's exciting getting that feeling again and being in this position,” Wie said. “It's a great feeling. I just want to go out there and have fun tomorrow and really enjoy it.”

David Leadbetter, Wie’s swing coach, reminded her that she has done this before, that she put herself back together to win twice in ’14, including the most important championship in women’s golf.

“She is in rarified air, that she hasn’t been in for a while, but I said to her, 'You have been here before. You can draw on some great experiences, especially Pinehurst, which was very pressurized coming down the stretch,’” Leadbetter told GolfChannel.com. “It’s not like this is brand new territory.”

No matter how Sunday unfolds, Leadbetter said he is encouraged that Wie is moving in the right direction.

“The signs are there, regardless what happens,” Leadbetter said.

After a bout of injuries following her U.S. Women’s Open triumph, after tinkering with a host of swing changes that damaged her left hip and left knee and then her confidence, Wie has “settled on” a swing this year that’s working. Leadbetter said she isn’t constantly searching and experimenting anymore. She has committed to hitting a stock fade that has been repeatable, and it’s giving her a lot of confidence.

“It’s easing her mind,” Leadbetter said.

It’s also easing the mind of Leadbetter, who jokes that Wie seemed to have a new swing every time he has gone to see her the last few years. At last year’s start, he challenged her to narrow her stance, to try to go back to the more flowing swing of her youth, with more hip turn to protect her lower body.

“She has this fairly wide stance now, and the swing is fairly compact, but not as tight and as short as it was when she won the U.S. Women’s Open,” Leadbetter said. “At Pinehurst, she put a little more stress on her lower body. This swing is a little freer. The big thing is she has a pattern to her shots.”

Wie, 27, leads the field in Singapore in hitting greens in regulation (48 of 54). Overall, she’s also hitting almost 80 percent of her fairways this year.

“We’ve sort of decided on, 'Let’s hit this fade, hit it down the left side,’” Leadbetter said. “It’s not going to go left on her, unless she hits a bad pull, but, essentially, her misses are all one way now. Occasionally, she hits it right, but she is to where she knows how the ball is going to react.”

Leadbetter likes that Wie is going a little more by feel on the range these days.

“She looks at video a little bit less now, instead of every two swings, and she uses TrackMan now only occasionally,” Leadbetter said.

Wie’s mantra in Singapore this week is about trying to “just have fun.” Leadbetter is enjoying seeing Wie smile this week, and he’s enjoying seeing her competitive again, because she hasn’t been competitive the last two years.

Wie is playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption because she couldn’t get into the field any other way. She didn’t have a top-10 finish in all of 2015. She had just one last year. She entered this week’s event having missed the cut or withdrawn in 14 of her last 27 events. She slipped to 105th on the LPGA money list last year, costing her full LPGA status. She’s playing out of category 3 on the LPGA priority list this year, which is reserved for members who are major champions. 

“You can’t say it’s all injuries,” Leadbetter said. “But I do think they led to a loss of confidence. When she’s riding on a boat load of confidence, she’s an exciting player who can do a lot of things other players can’t do. I still maintain she can hit shots other girls can’t even think about hitting.”

Wie sought out Leadbetter at the Honda Classic last week, when she said she “begged” him to come over to the Bear’s Club in nearby Jupiter to help her work on a new putting stroke, a more upright posture after she abandoned her “table-top” stance. Wie went to the claw at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open two weeks ago but is now using a conventional grip.

“Michelle’s putting hasn’t given her a lot of confidence in the rest of her game the last two years, but she’s got some consistency now in her long game and there’s no telling what she can do when she’s putting well,” Leadbetter said.

Win or lose, Wie has a plan for Sunday.

“Doesn't matter how long it's been since I've been in contention or anything,” Wie said. “I'm really proud of myself for putting myself in this position. I'm going to enjoy it tomorrow and play as hard as I can and try it do my best.”

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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

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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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.