Wie's unorthodox approach paying dividends

By Randall MellJune 29, 2017, 10:00 pm

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Michelle Wie is the rebel with a cause now.

“She has never been orthodox,” says David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

With a new putting style that borders on  multiple personality disorder, with her quirky pre-shot routines and now her unusually configured golf bag, Wie may be the LPGA’s most unorthodox player.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s working.

Somehow, some wacky way, it’s turning her around.

“It’s not pretty,” said Stacy Lewis, who played alongside Wie. “But it is working.”

Wie’s 3-under-par 68 Thursday put her into early contention at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, just two shots behind Chella Choi, the early leader.

Wie is finding her game with a hodge-podge of inventive technique and strategies. In some ways, Leadbetter said, she’s actually finding herself in this unconventional approach.

“Michelle has always had a unique way of going about things,” Leadbetter said.

Think Lonzo Ball’s quirky shooting form, Hideo Nomo’s eccentric pitching delivery, Rick Barry’s unconventional granny-style free throws and Dick Fosbury’s flop. They are all Wie’s kind of athletes.

“I’m just like, `This feels right, and I go with it,’” Wie said.

Wie’s tabletop putting stance was the oddest in golf last year. While her new stance looks so much more fundamentally sound now, her use of multiple grips is weird science.

Or, given Wie’s love of painting, maybe weird art.

Wie used at least three different putting grips Thursday in her round of five birdies and two bogeys on a windswept Olympia Fields Country Club course playing difficult.

She putted with the claw, she putted left-hand low and she putted conventional.

There might have been a couple more she improvised.

“I don’t know,” Wie said. “Don’t try to figure it out. It will be really hard.”

Wie’s bag was also unusually configured for a big hitter. She also stuck an 11-wood in it before the round.

“I told her she has more head covers in her bag now than Mi Hyun Kim ever did,” Leadbetter cracked.

KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Leadbetter’s loving this.

“You can’t explain this to somebody,” Leadbetter said. “It wouldn’t make sense.”

The scorecards are adding up quite nicely, though.

After slumping through her worst year in eight seasons as a pro, Wie is making yet another comeback this season. She arrived this week as one of the favorites. She shot 64 last Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and tied for fourth. She tied for second in her start before that and tied for third the week before that.

“I kind of was sick of playing bad golf, honestly,” Wie said of her resurgence this season. “I was just sick of being down, and really started this year with a really good sense of determination and motivation. It's a long time to be out there to be miserable. So I just kind of made a pact with myself that I'm going to have fun, and if I hit a bad shot, brush it off.”

Wie is in early position to try to add a second major championship to her resume. She’s looking to win for the first time since she claimed the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst three years ago.

Wie’s success isn’t coming just from her improved putting. It’s coming from consistent ball striking. Wie attributes this to the new, more consistent fade she’s grooving.

Lewis marveled over what she was seeing. Well, what she dared to watch.

“I did not watch a lot of her shots,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t help you to see those kind of shots, but she is believing in what she is doing, and she’s hitting good shots, and she’s hitting it the same every time. That’s what good golf is.”

Lewis called Wie’s new shot shape more of a big cut than a fade.

Lewis was asked if she saw all the different putting grips Wie has used.

“There’s different everything,” but it is working,” Lewis said.

Wie says the left-to-right ball flight is helping her hit more fairways. It has also helped her eliminate two-way misses. She is basically taking trouble on the left out of play.

Wie was counting on this improved control in helping her in major championships.

“Knowing where the ball isn’t going to go is as important as knowing where it’s going to go in this game.” Leadbetter said.

Wie hit 12 of 14 fairways Thursday, and she hit 14 greens in regulation.

“Michelle likes to go at the ball hard,” Leadbetter said. “The great thing is hitting this fade allows her to be very aggressive. That fits her personality.”

And so do all the unorthodox ideas.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.