Wie's Open win offers perfect end, promising future

By Randall MellJune 23, 2014, 5:51 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Michelle Wie stepping up to win Sunday was Hollywood scripting for this historic staging of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open.

The USGA billed this grand experiment as a celebration of women’s golf and the unprecedented chance to compare the men and women playing the same venue for the first time in back-to-back weeks.

Wie, for better or worse, made her name and mark boldly daring to believe she could compete against the men with a dream of someday playing in the Masters.

Whether you loved or loathed her ambition you can’t deny the irony in her playing such a giant role with the men and women sharing of one of golf’s largest stages at Pinehurst No. 2.

Wie laughed Sunday night when asked if she would have liked to have played in both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open these past two weeks.

“Oh, my God, that would be horrible, like two U.S. Opens in a row,” Wie said. “Oh, boy, I don't think I could do it.”

Devoted followers of the women’s game saw this twinning of championships holding some possible danger of making the women look bad, but with a load of potential upside in the possibility it might be the most watched women’s golf event ever. Wie’s winning was the best possible result for women’s fans thinking that way, because her crossing over to play PGA Tour events as a young teen was a marketing bonanza, vaulting her profile beyond what most women in golf have ever enjoyed.



The curious were waiting to see how Wie’s victory compared to the lackluster TV ratings the U.S. Open received with Martin Kaymer running away in an eight-shot rout. The final round of the men's version pulled a 3.3 overnight rating; the women's got a 1.7 rating. But while the men's Open was down 46 percent from a year ago (when Justin Rose won over Phil Mickelson and Co., and Tiger Woods competed), the women's Open was up 92 percent and the best since 2007. Wie's victory also bettered final-round coverage of the Travelers Championship, which got a 1.2 rating, and it was the top non-World Cup sporting event on network TV, according to Sports Media Watch.

“Michelle Wie winning the golf tournament, I don't think you can script it any better,” runner-up Stacy Lewis said. “I think it's great for the game of golf. I think it's even better for women's golf.”

Lewis knows what kind of jolt Wie can give the tour hitting leaderboards on a regular basis.

“You couldn’t ask for anything better for this tour,” Lewis said.

Wie has vaulted from No. 100 in the Rolex world rankings a little more than a year ago to No. 7 in this week’s rankings.

This is already a magical year for the women’s game. In the year’s first major, Lexi Thompson beat Wie in a head-to-head final-round duel at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. With Wie battling Rolex No. 1 Lewis at the end of her victory at Pinehurst No. 2, the women delivered high drama the men couldn’t provide in their final round. Wie’s title gives Americans claim to the first two women’s majors of the year for the first time this century, since Dottie Pepper and Juli Inkster opened 1999 winning the Kraft Nabisco and LPGA Championship.

Lewis, Inbee Park and 17-year-old Lydia Ko are battling weekly for the No. 1 ranking.

Ko, Park, Paula Creamer and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb have all hoisted trophies this year.

“With the help of [commissioner] Mike Whan, under his command, the tour has really started to flourish,” Wie said. “I think this week, playing on the same stage as the men, I think it opens the door for us to get better, to get bigger.”

The USGA couldn’t have drawn up better synergy linking the U.S. Open to the U.S. Women’s Open. It started with the women’s arrival in the final round of the U.S. Open, with Wie, Thompson, Ko, Cristie Kerr and other LPGA stars inside the ropes watching Kaymer win.

In the end, with Wie crediting the help she got from Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley giving her their yardage books, the men were made part of this dramatic finish.

“Just an absolutely wonderful two weeks, great golf,” said Dan Burton, chairman of the USGA’s championship committee. “I think we achieved every objective we could have possibly set out to enumerate. We presented the golf course, I think, both weeks in almost perfect fashion.”

It begs the question when the USGA might do this again, but the answer’s uncertain. With future U.S. Women’s Opens being moved to a new permanent date at the start of June, USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked when it makes sense to do this again.

“We've been asking ourselves that same question,” Davis said. “It won't be a regular thing if we do this.”

Pinehurst No. 2, with its rough-hewn agronomy, proved the perfect venue to stage back-to-back championships. The earliest the U.S. Open could return there is 2022. The dates are booked out until then.

Bob Dedman, Pinehurst’s owner, told GolfChannel.com he wants the U.S. Open back as soon as he can get it. Davis told Golfchannel.com a return is highly likely.

“I don’t think it’s a question of if we are going to return to Pinehurst No. 2, but a question of when,” Davis said.

Davis said the USGA won’t look at future venues until the fall, but Pinehurst No. 2 has formally invited the USGA to return. Dedman’s invite is among 20 the USGA will consider.

“You would be hard pressed to find a better place,” Davis said of Pinehurst No. 2s suitability for staging the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in back-to-back weeks.

The grand experiment by all accounts was a hit, and now women’s golf waits to see if they’ve earned an encore.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.