Notes Wies Year A Success


Michelle Wie's season ended Sunday at the Samsung World Championship, where she tied for 13th in the elite, 20-player field at Bighorn.
Wie, who turned 15 at the start of the week, did not hoist a single trophy this year. She lost in the finals of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and lost in the second round of the U.S. Women's Amateur.
Still, it would be hard to call this year a failure.
Her 68 in the Sony Open was the best score ever shot by a woman of any age on the PGA Tour, leaving her one shot shy of making the cut. She played in seven LPGA Tour events and finished in the top 20 in six of them, including fourth place at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Her earnings would have been about $257,931, enough to finish 43rd on the money list in just seven events. Projected over a 20-tournament schedule, Wie would have finished in the top 10.
Her next event likely will be the Sony Open in January, her second try on the PGA Tour. That doesn't mean she'll be on vacation the next two months.
'I wish I could take some time off,'' Wie said. But it's back to the books.''
Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are among Europeans who are planning to take up membership on the PGA Tour next year.
Poulter, known more for his Union Jack pants than anything he did at Oakland Hills, wasn't even aware that his spot on the Ryder Cup team made him eligible for PGA Tour membership.
'It was a nice surprise to happen because that's what I've been working for all year round,'' Poulter said Tuesday at the Funai Classic at Disney, where he received a foreign exemption. It will be nice to come over and play as many events as I can. It's the best way to improve my world ranking and better my career.''
Westwood didn't take up PGA Tour membership when he won in New Orleans in 1998. Now, he believes playing more in America will help his chances of winning a major.
Both Englishmen work with David Leadbetter and are looking at homes at Lake Nona, where Leadbetter lives.
'It just works out perfectly that I can fly over in the winter,'' Poulter said.
Still, the Englishman has no plans to abandon the European tour, and said he would talk to other Europeans -- such as Justin Rose -- to see how to work out his schedule.
First he won the American Express in Ireland. Then he won the World Match Play Championship for a record sixth time. Suddenly, Ernie Els has a new outlook on his 2004 season.
'Three weeks ago, I was complaining about all kinds of stuff,'' Els said, referring to his four close calls in the majors. Now, I've won twice in three weeks. So, I'm definitely eating my words at the moment. It's turning out to be a great season.''
Even without a major, Els turned in a phenomenal performance on the European tour.
He wrapped up his second straight Order of Merit with his victory at Wentworth, and already has shattered the single-season record with 4,061,904 euros ($5.08 million), nearly 1 million euros better than Lee Westwood in 2000.
The 35-year-old South African played 11 times on the European tour this year, including the British Open at Royal Troon and the World Golf Championship in Ireland. He won three times (Heineken Classic, Amex, World Match Play) and never finished out of the top 10.
Tournament director Gerald Goodman says he is expecting a large yacht to dock near Tampa for the Chrysler Championship next week at Innisbrook, and he promises it won't be turned away.
'It's for Robert Allenby and his 61-foot yacht,'' Goodman said.
As for that other guy floating around on his boat, Goodman is still hopeful that Tiger Woods will play one more event before the season-ending Tour Championship. Woods was expected to play Disney, but decided not to enter for the first time in his career because he wanted to extend his honeymoon.
'We've got to think for the next few days that we're never going to have a better chance than this year,'' Goodman said. We're hoping that boat comes around here. But we've learned not to get our hopes up too high.''
Tampa will do just fine without him.
The final full-field tournament of the year already has No. 1 and No. 2 in the world (Vijay Singh and Ernie Els), Masters champion Phil Mickelson at No. 4 and defending champion Retief Goosen, who is No. 5.
Michael Allen never had to hear Donald Trump's favorite two words: You're fired.
Allen, 45, was ready to give up on his 20-year career as a tour pro when he interviewed for the job as golf director at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., late last year. But then he tied for third at qualifying school -- the sixth time he has made it through golf's most grueling exam -- and decided to give the PGA Tour one more try.
It paid off Sunday when Allen finished second at Greensboro and earned $496,800 to secure his card for only the second time in his career. He now has $868,571, more than his career earnings coming into the season.
Allen quit after the '96 season and worked at Winged Foot, then tried construction and medical sales. Now, he gets to keep playing the PGA Tour for at least another year.
'I couldn't believe they were going to give me a half-million dollars for this,'' Allen said. Geez, what a great time.''
Annika Sorenstam has won $15,270,732 in her LPGA Tour career. Only 18 men have earned more on the PGA Tour. ... Lorena Ochoa left a birdie putt short and walked away in disgust, pursing her lips and slapping her putter. 'Good for her,'' said Dottie Pepper, offering her 'been there, done that'' perspective for NBC Sports. ... Andre Stolz at Las Vegas became the sixth Australian to win on the PGA Tour this year. Who would have guessed at the start of the season that list would not include Robert Allenby, Peter Lonard or Geoff Ogilvy?
European-born players now have gone four years without winning the European tour Order of Merit, the longest streak since it began in 1937.
'That I'm the biggest loser.'' -- Grace Park, asked what she could take away from her runner-up finish to Annika Sorenstam at the Samsung World Championship.
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