Bumps in the Curious Road of Michelle Wie

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- In the morning chill of the California desert, Michelle Wie tried one last time to find her swing.
 
She pulled driver from her neon pink-and-black golf bag, aligned herself toward a green 290 yards away at the farthest end of the practice range, and gave it a rip. She finished with only one hand on the club after hitting a snap hook. Shaking her head, Wie tried again and got the same result, at least keeping both hands on the club.

One more try.
 
This one reminded a dozen people watching why there is such a fuss over the 17-year-old from Hawaii. It was a majestic shot, never leaving its target until it landed on the front of the green, bringing a satisfied smile to Wie's face.
 
Then she shot 75 in the final round of the Samsung World Championship, closing out her LPGA Tour season with her worst score against the women all year.
 
'Sometimes you have to take a step back to get better,' Wie said.
 
That snapshot on the range at Bighorn summed up the first year of the most famous golfer without a professional victory.
 
There were times when Wie simply dazzled.
 
She was tied for the lead on the back nine of three LPGA majors, a shot or two away from being the youngest major champion in history. She received worldwide attention during a detour to Canoe Brook, the New Jersey golf course she made famous by nearly becoming the first woman to qualify for the U.S. Open.
 
And there were times when everyone wondered what in the world Wie was doing.
 
She withdrew midway through the second round of the John Deere Classic with heat exhaustion. Worse yet were the scores that followed in two more forays against the men -- dead last in the European Masters and 84 Lumber Classic in consecutive weeks.
 
'Those two events left a sour taste in everyone's mouth, including hers,' swing coach David Leadbetter said. 'Having the skill level is only one aspect of this pie. It's a challenge. This is the route they've taken, and it's unusual. She's very much a pioneer. If she's successful, it will have been the right thing. If not, they'll castigate her.'
 
Starting her senior year in high school, having finished her fourth year playing the maximum LPGA events allowed without joining the tour, and still searching for a victory that would quiet her critics, Wie is determined not to look back.
 
She jokes about leaving the John Deere in an ambulance -- 'At least they could have turned the siren on,' she said -- and delights in six top 5s on the LPGA and having her first legitimate chance to win.
 
'Just the taste of it wanted me to do even better,' she said. 'That excitement was the best. It made me so motivated. I practiced like no other year.'
 
But as she sat in the clubhouse at Bighorn, her posture changed -- upright, arms folded across her chest -- when asked if she sensed a shift in public opinion about her grandiose plans of taking on men and women around the world.
 
Since she was 13 and first competed against the men on smaller circuits, Wie has been criticized for not playing against her own age group, her own gender and for turning pro before leaving high school. She ignores most of it.
 
But she is not deaf.
 
'I'm not going to lie,' she said. 'It's not like I have an insult-proof shield around me. Some stuff is so ridiculous I don't even care. But obviously, some stuff does affect me a little bit. It's like, 'Why would they say something like that when they don't know me?' But you've got to accept it. There's nothing you can do about it.'
 
She has met with two PGA TOUR stars who know something about criticism.
 
At the European Masters, Wie had lunch with Sergio Garcia. He reminded her that he finished last as a 19-year-old in his first major as a professional, the '99 British Open at Carnoustie, then finished one shot behind Tiger Woods in his next major at Medinah.
 
Two weeks ago, she met with Phil Mickelson, whom the media constantly nagged over his failure to win a major. That changed when Mickelson won the '04 Masters, and he has captured one major each of the last three seasons.
 
'People that want to write bad stuff about me were waiting for those moments, waiting for when I do actually play bad,' Wie said. 'All summer, they really had nothing to write about. Bad days are going to happen, followed by good days, followed by bad days. The only thing really important to me is that everyone around me still supported me.'
 
Her supporters see the big picture.
 
Wie maintained a 3.8 grade point average at Punahou School in Honolulu. She played 14 tournaments, not including two stages of U.S. Open qualifying, made six TV commercials for her corporate sponsors and had several other endorsement obligations. In only eight starts on the LPGA Tour, she earned $730,921, which would put her 14th on the money list.
 
Her earnings on and off the course will approach $20 million this year, making her the richest female in golf, and she already has donated more than $1 million, primarily to help children who can't afford medical care.
 
Two words summed up her year -- hectic and happy.
 
'I just love going to school and then playing in tournaments,' Wie said. 'I kind of have a dual life almost. It's a lot of fun. I like changing back and forth between different worlds.'
 
With that comes more scrutiny than any other golfer this side of Woods.
 
'When you have a talent like that,' Cristie Kerr once said, 'you're always going to have a little controversy around it.'
 
Skepticism about her unprecedented path reached an all-time high the last two months as Wie hit the first slump of her career. She did not break par in her last two LPGA events, sandwiched around her last-place finishes in the European Masters and 84 Lumber Classic against the men.
 
Wie called that 'growing pains' and conceded she had a lot to learn in making out a schedule. She traveled nearly 20,000 miles across 12 time zones in September to play those two men's events, and the results were predictable.
 
'If they learned anything, they have got to schedule better,' Leadbetter said.
 
He said the Wie family will meet in December to map out a strategy for 2007. The schedule will change, but not the way some of her critics would prefer. She is not about to abandon her dream of competing against men.
 
'I'm a very stubborn girl,' Wie said. 'I have to do what I want to do, and what I want is a combination. I'm working on this as a really long-term goal. You're going to have ups and downs in that process.'
 
Wie has one more tournament this year, the Casio World Open on the Japan PGA Tour in late November.
 
She likely will start 2007 at the Sony Open in Honolulu, and while she has not made the cut in six tries on the PGA TOUR, not everyone is losing interest in this unusual plan.
 
'We haven't changed our feelings,' said Clair Peterson, tournament director of the John Deere Classic, who plans to offer her another exemption. 'People lose sight of the fact that ... she's a terrific talent. People are interested in the talent. Tiger was invited as a 16-year-old to play in the Nissan Open, and no one worried about it. He didn't make a cut until he was 19.'
 
Woods, however, grew his legend by winning three straight U.S. Junior Amateurs and three straight U.S. Amateurs, along with an NCAA title at Stanford. Wie improves on the LPGA Tour each year, although the knock on her is that she hasn't won.
 
'She has all the talent in the world,' Juli Inkster said. 'It's what she wants to do with it, what she can do with it. You can have the best swing, the best putting stroke, the best chipping. But you've got to play the game. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.'
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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

 

 

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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”