Wie Impressive in PGA Tour Debut

By Sports NetworkJanuary 15, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Carlos Franco fired a 7-under 63 on Thursday to take a two-shot lead at the Sony Open in Hawaii on a day that was highlighted by Michelle Wie's history-making debut on the PGA Tour.
Jesper Parnevik finished alone in second place at 5-under-par 65. Aaron Baddeley, who lost this event in a playoff to Ernie Els last year, was one shot further back at 4-under-par 66 along with Craig Barlow, Ted Purdy, David Ishii, Stephen Ames and Luke Donald.
Wie, who has made plenty of history throughout her young career as an amateur, had failed to qualify for the event at Waialae Country Club on two previous occasions, but got her chance to play alongside the men of the PGA Tour after she received an invitation and a sponsor's exemption to the 2004 edition of the tournament.
'It was wonderful,' said Wie, who became the youngest woman to ever compete alongside the men of the PGA Tour. 'There were so many people out there today. They were really good, supporting me, and whenever I made a putt, they were just awesome.'
The hard-hitting ninth-grader played the back side first and split the fairway with her drive off the 10th tee en route to a par. At the par-4 12th, Wie dropped her approach inside 10 feet and drained the putt for her first birdie of the day.
Wie, who became the youngest player to ever win a USGA championship when she captured the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links title last year, found a greenside bunker with her second shot to the par-4 13th and bogeyed the hole. She found the sand again at the par-4 14th and could not get up and down to save par.
She had a five-footer for par at the par-4 first, but pushed the ball right of the hole. Wie knocked her tee shot into a greenside bunker at the par-3 fourth, but this time was able to save par after a solid shot from the sand.
Wie struggled on the green at the par-4 fifth and took three putts for a bogey. She responded at the very next hole, however, and drained a 16-foot putt for her second birdie of the day.
At the par-3 seventh, Wie had a tricky putt to save par but her ball lipped out of the hole.
Wie closed her round with a positive at the par-5 ninth after blasting her approach into a greenside bunker. She played her third shot out of the sand to 10 feet and ran home the putt for a respectable 2-over-par 72 showing in her first PGA Tour round.
'I think I was playing it more safe today,' said Wie. 'But if I make it to Saturday I'm going to go at every flag.'
Wie has already played alongside men twice before, once on the Nationwide Tour and once on the Canadian Tour, but now the young Hawaiian has followed in the footsteps of Annika Sorenstam and Suzy Whaley, both of whom have competed on the PGA Tour dating back to Sorenstam's historical appearance at the Colonial in May of 2003.
Franco hit his tee shot to 10 feet for a birdie at the par-3 seventh and ran home a 25-foot putt for an eagle at the par-5 ninth to make the turn at 3 under.
The 38-year-old, who has missed the cut in each of his last two appearances at this event, added birdies at the 11th and the 13th before knocking his tee ball inside two feet for a birdie at the par-3 17th.
Franco tapped in for birdie and two-putted for a birdie at the par-5 last to complete a career best round of 63 at the first full-field event of the 2004 season.
'When you play well, everything is good,' said Franco. 'When you play bad, very difficult to come back for your game.'
Parnevik collected five birdies and a bogey to finish two shots off the pace.
'I played very solid. I've been working really hard the last two months,' said Parnevik. 'You know, I have a clue where the golf ball is going for a change. I haven't really had a clue for the last two years. It's nice to be able to hit shots and trust it.'
Els, the defending champion, played the back side first and tallied two birdies over his first nine holes.
The South African stumbled with a bogey at the par-4 sixth but recovered with an eagle at the par-5 last to finish in a group at 3-under-par 67 that features former U.S. Open champions Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen.
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.