Wie: 'Starting second part of my career' at just 24

By Will GrayJune 17, 2014, 4:29 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Many golfers can tell you about their renaissance.

That point in time at which things began to click, when a game that had seemed so difficult for so long suddenly felt easy again. When the hours spent on the range finally began to translate into results on the course.

Few if any, though, can tell you about such a rebirth at age 24. Then there’s Michelle Wie.

Although she still has to pay a little extra when renting a car, Wie is making her 11th appearance in the U.S. Women’s Open this week. She’s been playing in the USGA’s marquee event for nearly as long as Lucy Li has been alive, and Wie has been on the national radar even longer.

Her prominence in the game has been debated for years, often seen as a mixture of raw talent and marketing hype. Whatever the source, her brand-name recognition caused her recent decline to resonate more strongly, but it also created a bigger stage for her return to relevance this year.

Arriving to Pinehurst No. 2 with unbridled confidence, Wie believes her renaissance is underway.

“I really feel like I’m kind of starting the second part of my career,” Wie said Tuesday. “I think a golf career, you’re going to have ups, you’re going to have downs. It’s not a short career, it’s a very long career. I’m in it for the long run.”

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She would know better than most about both the ups and the downs. At just 16 years old, she was ranked third when the initial Rolex Rankings were published in 2006, but watched as her performance began to fade and her spot in the standings followed suit. Just last year, she was outside the top 100. And Wie was ranked 80th in the world when Meg Mallon surprised many by adding her to the Solheim Cup team last summer.

Since then, though, she has turned things around in a hurry and enters this week with a rare asset: results.

Hardly seen as a consistent player, Wie has been just that this year on the LPGA tour, with eight top-10 finishes in 12 starts highlighted by a runner-up finish at the season’s first major and a win at the LPGA Lotte Championship, the third of her career and first in her native Hawaii.

After beginning the year ranked 61st, Wie has rocketed all the way to 11th in the world heading into the U.S. Women’s Open.

“I’m just having a lot of fun playing,” she said. “I feel that I came into the year saying that I want to be more consistent and I feel like I’m kind of on track.”

The evolution is clear, even to some of her closest competitors.

"It's like she's a different person," said world No. 2 Stacy Lewis. "She's grown up, she's taken ownership of her game. Her relationship with her parents and her family is so much better. She's out there calling the shots instead of the other way around, and it's great to see because she's playing golf and having fun with it."

One of the longer hitters on the LPGA for the past several years, Wie drew some questions, if not a few snickers, when she switched to her current “table top” putting style, with her back arched at nearly a 90 degree angle.

While her style certainly appears unorthodox, a funny thing has happened: since the switch, her putting has gotten better – a lot better – and the results have followed.

“My putting stance is kind of what I feel comfortable with,” said Wie, who ranks fourth on the LPGA in putts per GIR this year after finishing 119th in the same category in 2012. “I think I still need to get better, but I think I’m definitely on the right track. It may look funny, but it feels good to me.”

Wie held the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2005 before a final-round 82, then tied for third the following year. Since then, though, she has struggled in this event, making the cut only twice and finishing no better than a tie for 35th in 2012.

While she is playing some of the best golf of her career, she admits that there is more on the line this week than usual.

“I get really excited for the U.S. Opens and I try not to put so much pressure on myself, but I always end up doing so,” Wie said.

Coping with added pressure, especially on a course as demanding as Pinehurst No. 2, seems like a difficult proposition. But Wie now carries with her more experience than most in this week’s field, a fact that belies her relative youth.

During her press conference, Wie was asked about the athletic tape she wore during her practice round, which she is using to treat what she described as a minor, though nagging, knee injury.

“I just feel like I’m getting old,” she said. “I’m not 13 anymore and tapeless.”

The statement encapsulates Wie’s unique position within the women’s game: a seasoned veteran, but still viewed as a rising star. An established player, but one that may just now be tapping into her potential.

At 24, Wie is embarking on a new chapter in her career, one that has defied convention for more than a decade. With a win this week at Pinehurst, the theme of that story could take yet another dramatic shift.

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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.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.