Big Wiesy Big Attraction

By Associated PressJanuary 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- The was the only one on the course wearing big, dangling earrings. A thick black belt lined with square metal studs circled her waist. She wore a silver bracelet on her right wrist and a white watch on her left.
 
Michelle Wie, all of 15, understands fashion just fine. She can also hit the daylights out of the ball, and on a given day hold her own with the men on the PGA Tour. She also has marketers wondering if this 10th-grade girl is the next big thing in sports.
 
Wie's latest foray is the Sony Open, a tournament that boasts the likes of Ernie Els. But the two-time defending champion from South Africa is hardly the reason behind some of the largest galleries to pack Waialae Country Club. They are coming to watch Wie, playing on her home turf with the big boys.
 
'Michelle's creating excitement because she's breaking down barriers,' said Greg Nichols, general manager at Ko Olina Golf Club and a junior golf coach. 'She has created a huge wave for golf.'
 
College is still a ways off for Wie, but that hasn't stopped potential sponsors from scouting her the last few years. Among them is Greg Nared, a business affairs manager for Nike, who has been tracking her game and appeal to see whether she has the stuff of a good 'Nike athlete' like Tiger Woods, who brought droves of youngsters to the sport.
 
'She's good for the game because she could attract younger people and females,' said Nared, adding that Wie's Korean heritage has appeal in the Asian market.
 
When asked whether Wie could make the game 'sexier,' in the same way the Williams sisters upended the staid fashion world of tennis, Nared said, 'She's a beautiful girl and she wears clothes well.'
 
Poised and a statuesque 6 feet, Wie can easily pass for 25 in makeup and an evening gown, such as the sparkling red number she wore last May to a newcomer awards ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal.
 
On Thursday, a silver pair of chandelier earrings with green and gray-black stones dangled from her lobes. Her turquoise golf shirt, made of a silklike synthetic, was slightly flashier than those of other players in the tournament, but tastefully tucked in to white slacks. The PGA dress code requires long pants.
 
For all her fashion sense though, Wie does not figure to go the way of Anna Kournikova, whom many criticized for too much preening and not enough points on the women's pro tennis tour.
 
Wie struggled with her game Friday, shooting a 4-over 74 to finish 17 shots behind leader Shigeki Maruyama, and seven shots below the cut line.
 
Two years ago, she became the youngest winner of a USGA title for adults when she captured the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. She also played in the final group of an LPGA major at 13, tying for ninth in the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and tied for fourth in the Nabisco last year.
 
Wie has played 17 times on the LPGA Tour. Had she not been an amateur, she would have earned enough in seven LPGA events last year to have finished in the top 50 on the money list.
 
Wie's gallery was the largest by far of any golfer Thursday during the windy first round. Her parents, B.J. and Bo Wie, family friends and thousands of locals outnumbered spectators following the tour's staple attractions, including Vijay Singh, the No. 1 player in the world, and Els, always a popular draw in Hawaii.
 
She was easy to find, and not just because of her height or dress - just look for the largest crowd, moving en masse to follow each shot, and a dozen photographers trying to capture her every move.
 
'We have to support our little girl,' said Faith Shimizu, who golfs regularly on Oahu. 'She's a youngster from Hawaii making a name for herself all over the world.'
 
The Punahou School student missed the cut in the Sony Open last year by one shot, shooting a 68 in the second round for the best score by a female on the PGA Tour. She talks often about playing in the LPGA and PGA simultaneously, and hopes to someday qualify for the Masters.
 
A West Oahu golf club and a local hospital charity are already benefiting from Wie's swift rise. Dozens of spectators wore 'Go Michelle' pins with the Ko Olina Golf Club logo on their visors. The Miracle Birdie Club was collecting a dollar for each birdie Wie made at the Sony Open to donate to Kapiolani Children's Miracle Network.
 
Despite finishing at 5-over-par 75 and making just one birdie, Wie showed she could compete.
 
'I was very impressed, all the different shots she was playing,' said Matt Davidson, who made his PGA Tour debut partnered with Wie. 'I didn't feel like I was playing with a 15-year-old girl. She's very polished. She has all the tools to be out here.'
 
It's not just Hawaii where she attracts the large galleries. At the U.S. Women's Open last year in Massachusetts, where Wie tied for 13th, as many people watched her as Annika Sorenstam, one of the world's most famous female athletes.
 
Wie draws strength from the attention. 'It was great having all the fans out here,' she said. 'They were supporting me and like, 'Oh, you can do it,' and, 'Good round.' It was great. It helped me.'
 
Erin Noel, whose boyfriend, Brett Wetterich, played alongside Wie on Thursday, is excited about seeing a girl in a PGA tournament.
 
'I'm totally into it,' she said. 'I think it's awesome because what is she, like, 15?'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Sony Open
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

    Getty Images

    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

    Getty Images

    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''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.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

    Getty Images

    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”