Yanks in Middle East Euros in US

By Tom AbbottJanuary 9, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editors Note: Tom Abbott is the host of Golf Central UK. He will be filing a bi-weekly column on golfchannel.com with news, opinions and his inside knowledge of the European Tour.

Back to South Africa
The European Tour starts-up again this week with the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. This is the third event of the 2007 schedule to be played on South African soil but sadly the event has attracted a very weak field. The big names have failed to make the long trip from Europe down to South Africa, especially with a strong run of tournaments coming-up in the Middle East and the short holiday break. Another factor is the South African holding tax on earnings, meaning players are already losing a hefty percentage of their pay-checks before they leave the country. The biggest name in the field is 10-time PGA TOUR winner and 1998 South African Open Champion David Frost.

Notah to Play in Abu Dhabi
Notah Begay III will make his 2007 European Tour debut at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship next week. However, Begay, a European Tour qualifying school graduate has had to rely on a sponsors invitation to play in the event because his exemption category did not make the cut-off point for the strong field. Begay is one of two Americans in the field, Chris DiMarco is also back to defend his title.

A Big Year for the LET
The Ladies European Tour continues to grow and the tour will have four new events this year. The MFS Australian Open, De Vere Ladies Scottish Open, Northern Ireland Ladies Open and the Madrid Ladies Masters will boost the schedule to 25 events. In addition, the Weetabix Womens British Open will become the first womans professional event to be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews when the tour moves to the home of golf in August. The Solheim Cup also returns to Sweden later in the year. The 2007 tour begins later this month in South Africa, with the Womens World Cup of Golf.

Golfers Honoured
In the United Kingdom, the Queen awards a series of honours to her loyal and dedicated subjects with a list of the recipients announced at the New Year, and this years list included a couple of golfers. Ian Woosnam was upgraded from MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) to CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Sport, relating to his victorious run as European Ryder Cup captain, and amateur Gary Wolstenholme was awarded an MBE. Wolstenholme has been Britains most successful amateur of recent times, twice a winner of the British Amateur and a veteran of six Walker Cups, famously beating Tiger Woods in the singles at Royal Porthcawl in 1995. Wolstenholme told me it's been a tough road with a lot of sacrifices but hes delighted at the honour, and he wants to dedicate it to those involved in his game. He tells me that just because hes 46, the amateur career is far from over.

Europeans in the U.S.
Many of you have e-mailed me enquiring about European players playing on the PGA TOUR. The TOUR doesnt give exemptions to the European Ryder Cup team, nor the International Presidents Cup side starting this year, so these are the European players exempt for 2007: Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, J.M. Olazabal, Justin Rose, Richard S. Johnson, Ian Poulter, Greg Owen, Jesper Parnevik, David Howell, Brian Davis, Mathias Gronberg, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson, Anders Hansen, Alex Cejka, Thomas Levet and Bernhard Langer. Anyone else will need to rely on a sponsor's exemption or meet the entry requirements for certain events like The Players Championship, the majors and WGC events.

The Wisley Boys
The Wisley in Surrey, England is one of the countrys most exclusive private members golf clubs, but it's attracting some of the countrys most talented young professionals. A gang of young European Tour pros now base themselves at the 27 hole lay-out, spending their off days playing and practicing together. European Tour player James Heath; Challenge Tour regulars Kieran Staunton, Zane Scotland and Adam Gee; and Asian Tour player Ben St. John take advantage of a unique system which allows them to rent memberships from existing members who are not currently using theirs, a cost-effective method as initiation for a new member is running at around 40,000 pounds. Gee, who was a finalist at this years British Amateur Championship before turning professional, tells me the five are really developing as players by spending time together at the club. He also said theyve taken advantage of being around some of the clubs sporting members, such as tennis star Greg Rusedski and former Liverpool soccer player Jamie Redknapp. Colin Montgomerie is also a regular at the club as it's the base of his coach, Denis Pugh.

I certainly appreciate your e-mail. Many of you wrote with valid points and interesting ideas last month, some of which Ive addressed in this column. Keep them coming to the link below!

Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)

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Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

“Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

“For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”

Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

“We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

“It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

“I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

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

Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

“I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

“Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

“Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

“She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”