Wie trails Lewis by one entering final round

By Rex HoggardDecember 6, 2008, 5:00 pm
LPGA Tour _newDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ' The headline was more of the same for the pony-tailed pied piper of LPGA Q-School. But then repeatability and simplicity are the most important tools of the Q-School trade, and Michelle Wies fourth round had a Xerox quality to it.
Four laps into the LPGAs 90-hole Fall Classic, it was a familiar tale: Teen finds fairways, greens, the occasional birdie putt and puts her head down as she races past the assembled media on her way to a tour card and some much-needed normalcy in a career that has been anything but off-the-shelf.

Wie Watch ' LPGA Q-School

Round 4
Score: 32-32'68 (14-under 206, 2nd, one behind leader Stacy Lewis)
Behind the scorecard: Wies 4-under card was her best putting round of the week. The teen needed just 28 putts, including one-putt par saves at Nos. 15, 17 and 18. The easier Champions Course also gave Wie a chance to be more aggressive. She hit 13 drivers on Saturday, nearly twice as many (eight) as shed hit in two rounds on the Legends layout.
Quotable: At least the circus is in front of us today, mused one caddie as he eyed the gallery huddled around the first tee to watch Wie tee off early Saturday
Sights and sounds: The LPGA switched courses for this years final stage, sending the leaders off on the easier Champions layout for the final round instead of the Legends Course. Thats good news for Wie, who is 11 under on the Champions compared to her 3-under total on the Legends. Sundays final-round pairing will also have an air of familiarity for Wie. She will be paired with leader Stacy Lewis, who she played with at sectional qualifying and during Round 3 at final stage, and Amy Yang, who played a practice round with Wie earlier this year at a tournament in Germany and again on Saturday at LPGA International.
' Rex Hoggard

On Saturday it was more of the same for Wie, who plodded her way through a round dictated by reason and pragmatic simplicity that added up to 4-under 68 and a spot in the events final threesome. The 19-year-old will begin Sundays final round one stroke behind Stacy Lewis, who posted her fourth consecutive sub-par round (67) for 15-under 273 total.
Wies Saturday may have been her most statistically sound effort of the week, if not her most creative. She didnt miss a fairway until her fifth hole despite a more aggressive game plan that featured nearly twice as many drivers from the tee (13) then shed hit in two rounds on the Legends Course (eight), and needed just 28 putts.
The key to her round came during a windy closing stretch when Wie scrambled for par at that 15th, 17th and 18th holes to cap an otherwise uneventful round. Its a formula that has played well at LPGA International ' doing more than just enough, but never over doing it.
Even when she ran afoul of her fairways-and-greens blueprint, she found a way to avoid too much damage. At the par-4 eighth hole she pulled her drive into the woods, took a penalty drop and wisely played to the middle of the green for a two-putt bogey. It was her only blemish and set the stage for an intriguing final round that will give Wie a chance to win her first individual title since 2003.
Of course the ultimate rub is that what is being billed as Wies most important tournament to date is not dependent on whether she wins or ties for 19th. The rewards, at least symbolically, are the same.
While Wies plight was the days biggest news, it was hardly the only interesting headline on a warm and breezy Saturday.
Others to watch as the games final exam gets underway on Sunday will be Louise Stahle and Sunny Oh, who clawed their way into the top 20 thanks to gutsy rounds on the more demanding Legends Course. Oh carded a 67 to vault from 41st to 18th, while Stahle climbed from 41st to 12th with a 65 that was quietly the days best effort.
Japanese amateur Mika Miyazato, who was among the first-day leaders before struggling to rounds of 74-72, rebounded with a 68 on the Champions Course that left her alone in 11th place.
The sub-plots, however, will be secondary when Wie and Lewis take to the first tee on Sunday. Lewis, who hadnt played with Wie until the sectional Q-School event in California earlier this year, continued her solid play on Day 4 and missed four chances late in her round to put even more distance between herself and her high-profile competitor.
Lewis, whose worst round of the week is a 1-under 71 on Friday at the Legends Course, bogeyed the par-4 15th after starting her day with a front-nine 31.
I missed five putts probably inside 10 feet on the back nine, said Lewis, the 2007 NCAA individual champion who tied for third at this years U.S. Womens Open. It could have been really good today.
Although Wie continues to avoid the press, there is a good chance the Hawaiian phenom would have echoed Lewis comments if she would have talked: I am just out here to win, Lewis said. I havent thought about top 20 all week. Its just not a goal of mine. Im here to win.
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  • Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

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    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

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    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

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    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

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    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

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    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.