More important this week, in the context of the U.S. Womens Open that begins Thursday at Interlachen Country Club, Mary Bea Porter ran a junior golf program that once included a couple of little Hawaiian girls named Michelle Wie and Kimberly Kim.
Wie is 18 now and an internationally-known player trying to come all the way back from a wrist injury that ruined her 2007 season. Kim is 16 and two years removed from winning the U.S. Womens Amateur.
Thursday and Friday they will be playing in the same grouping at Interlachen.
Kimberly could actually beat Michelle way back then, Porter said. And Im not sure even now whether she knows how good she could be. Shes completely oblivious to outside pressures. And if nobody tries to change what comes naturally to her, she will become a great player. I wouldnt be surprised if she has the lower score (than Wie) after 36 holes.
Which is not to say Porter wishes any ill toward Wie, whose game has shown signs of a renaissance in recent weeks.
I will be rooting for both of them, Porter said.
The grouping of Wie, Kim and Julieta Granada goes off the first tee at Thursday at 8:17 a.m.
Asked what she learned during the time she tried to play hurt, Wie said, I guess the best advice was just to keep smiling. As easy as it sounds, it was really hard to do. I guess that one simple motion changes a lot of things. I smile through practice, smile through the hard times.
Defending champion Cristie Kerr could relate. She struggled early in her career with expectations and getting along with other players. She is outgoing now and popular among many of the other players.
And she appreciates and understands golf architecture. Her U.S. Womens Open victory last year came at Pine Needles, a Donald Ross design. Ross also designed Interlachen.
I think he had a sense of humor about golf, Kerr said. As you can see by his golf courses.
The players this week are going to have to retain their sense of humor on the greens that course set-up guy Mike Davis said Wednesday will be stimping in the low 12s.
That means players will not want to be above the hole anywhere on the course. And if they arent careful on the ninth hole, Davis said, they will be lucky to make bogey even if they have hit the par 4 in regulation.
KERR ON WIE
The old Cristie Kerr might not have taken time to acknowledge Wies presence, much less welcome her return. Todays Cristie Kerr offered these words of encouragement:
Im just happy shes doing better now, Kerr said. She seems to be in a little bit better place with her injury and being able to practice and come back. I think a little time off actually did her good because shes been grinding since she was 10 years old to try to become a professional by the age of 16. And thats something a lot of people cant really understand. So Im glad to see shes doing better. Shes good for the game.
NO FEDEXCUP TITLE FOR TIGER
The notion has been posited by, among others, E-Mailers to the GOLF CHANNEL, that Tiger Woods could win the FedExCup even though hes finished playing competitive golf for the year. The idea here is that Tiger could still be leading the points race after the reset which would put him at 100,000 points.
Not possible, said Steve Dennis of the PGA TOUR, in an E-mail to GOLF CHANNEL. Because of the tightened reset and increased points awarded in the Playoffs this year, whoever wins the first event will have over 100,000 points, thus passing Tiger. It WAS mathematically possible last year to win with 100,000 points, although even then it would have required some absurd machinations. I havent figured out exactly what the highest Tiger could end up, but every player who earns points in all four events will pass him. Our estimate is that hell fall to around 65th or so.
SO LONG ANNIKA?
This will be Annika Sorenstams last U.S. Open. For now.
I dont know if Ill come back in five or so years, she said, leaving the door open.
She has already said she wants to start a family. Shes engaged to be married to Mike McGee early next year. The speculation is that Sorenstam, 37, might return after two children.
As far as her game and this week are concerned, Sorenstam said she is excited about this major especially after working on her putting 10 days ago with former PGA TOUR player and Ryder Cup captain Dave Stockton. Stockton, one of the best putters of his or any other generation, has been working increasingly with touring professionals in need of putting help.
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