Big Easy Shares Billing with Big Wiesy

By Associated PressJanuary 12, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Sony OpenHONOLULU - Ernie Els has played before the largest galleries this week at the Sony Open, in part because he is trying to become the first player in its 40-year history to win three straight times. And also because the Big Easy has been hanging around the Big Wiesy.
 
In the first full-field event, with the No. 1 player (Vijay Singh) at Waialae Country Club for the first time, 15-year-old Michelle Wie remains the star attraction as she pursues history of her own. She will try to become the first woman to make the cut on the PGA Tour since Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Tucson Open.
 
Impossible?
 
A year ago, Wie shot 68 in the second round ' the lowest score by a female competing against men ' and finished at even-par 140 to miss the cut by one shot.
 
'To me, the two stories are: Can Ernie win three in a row? And Michelle Wie, how is she going to play?' David Toms said Wednesday. 'I think it's good for this golf tournament.'
 
It might be a little tougher for Wie this time around.
 
She now has a performance to measure herself against. And while expectations are high, so is the rough. Add in some heavy rain in recent weeks, and Waialae Country Club is playing every bit of its 7,060 yards.
 
Wie headed to the practice range late Wednesday afternoon, searching for a spot between Zach Johnson and Jesper Parnevik as she tried to control her driver.
 
She was to tee off Thursday at 8:59 a.m. HST, playing with 31-year-old Brett Wetterich and 23-year-old Matt Davidson, who graduated from Furman last year and will be playing his first PGA Tour event.
 
Els wasn't willing to offer any predictions, only that he is no less astonished by her game.
 
'It's amazing what she is doing ' a 15-year-old girl playing in a PGA Tour event,' Els said. 'She's doing a hell of a job, and she believes she can play with us, which is great. I think from last year to this year, I could see her developing as a person now.'
 
Els also played a practice round last year, fitting since Wie was dubbed the 'Big Wiesy' as a 12-year-old when Tom Lehman compared her swing favorably with Els.
 
They played twice this time ' a practice round Tuesday, the pro-am round Wednesday ' and it wasn't hard to figure out where they were on the traditional course lined by skinny palms.
 
Just look for the crowds.
 
'Home crowds can go two ways,' Jim Furyk said. 'But at the tender age of 15, I think she's probably very well-suited to pressure and having the home crowd. And she's well, well, well beyond her years, well beyond a 30-year-old probably in a lot of ways.'
 
The first full-field event of the year features four players from the Champions Tour ' Monday qualifier Dick Mast, Peter Jacobsen, Craig Stadler (playing this week with son Kevin, a PGA Tour rookie) and Tom Kite, who is using a one-time exemption from the money list to play one final year on the PGA Tour.
 
And while the PGA Tour season is only one week old, it allows Els a chance at redemption.
 
Just four days ago, he stood on the 18th tee at Kapalua needing a birdie on the par 5 to force a playoff. Instead, his tee shot sailed to the right, hit a cart path and went out of bounds.
 
He seems to have recovered.
 
'I made a mistake there and it was difficult,' he said. 'But I'm fine now. It's not like it's never happened before. But yeah, I look at the bad side. I had a chance to win and I blew that. The good side is it's the first tournament of the year. It's not a bad start to the year.'
 
Waialae is a good place for him to feel good vibes.
 
The Buick Classic, the Heineken Classic and the World Match Play Championship in England (where he has a home on the 16th fairway) are the only other tournaments Els has won at least two times in a row.
 
It wasn't easy at the Sony Open.
 
He outlasted Aaron Baddeley on the second playoff hole two years ago when Els holed a 55-foot birdie putt and Baddeley three-putted for bogey from 20 feet. A year ago, Els lost a two-shot lead on the back nine, then beat Harrison Frazar on the third extra hole with a 30-foot birdie putt.
 
'I've been fortunate in those playoffs,' Els said. 'It could have gone either way. I could be sitting here and moaning about how I lost them, but I won them. That's a good thing.'
 
Even so, he has never finished worse than fifth in his four previous years at the Sony Open.
 
'It helps when you have a good feel around the place,' Els said. 'Definitely, I have it here. But you've still got to go out there and play the course. You can't go back on your record.'
 
That's good advice for anyone this week, especially Wie.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

    Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

    European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

    Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


    Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


    Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

    Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

    Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

    Getty Images

    Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

    Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

    Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

    ''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

    The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

    ''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

    Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


    Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


    ''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

    Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

    ''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

    The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

    ''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

    The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

    Getty Images

    After Further Review: American success stories

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

    Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

    After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

    Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

    It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


    On the resurgence of American women  ...

    American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

    The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

    Getty Images

    In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

    By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

    Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    Anxiety.

    Frustration.

    Anger.

    Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

    “I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

    Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

    It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

    “I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

    “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

    Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

    “Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

    Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

    Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

    This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

    Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

    Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

    Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

    Kang did.

    “Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

    Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

    “I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

    “More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”