Lest Wie forget stars past poses uncertain future

By Associated PressDecember 9, 2008, 5:00 pm
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ' Michelle Wie has a clean slate for a future that remains muddled.
Considering all she has gone through, theres simply no telling what will happen next.
When she won the U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links at 13, it would have been hard to imagine her going six years without another trophy to call her own. And when she had a share of the lead on the back nine of three majors her first year as a pro, who could have guessed she would be fighting for her future at Q-School just two years later?
Then again, with an average score last year of 76.7 ' no rounds in the 60s, only two better than par ' what would have been the odds that she could even survive Q-School to earn LPGA membership?
I have a clean slate, she said. I took the long way to get here, but I feel really good about it.
But as much as Wie wants to move forward, it will be difficult for her to escape expectations created by her past.
There remains a fascination about the 19-year-old from Hawaii that even the LPGA brass finally recognized. Tour officials erected a tiny grandstand behind the 18th green for the final stage of Q-School, and a crowd close to 500 that surrounded the green Sunday when Wie finished was about 475 more than who usually watches this event.
Swing coach David Leadbetter was asked if the LPGA needed Wie as much as she needed the tour, and he found his answer walking up the final hole with a couple of hundred fans who had gone the distance.
Look around, he said.
The question is whether that fascination continues now that Wie looks more like everyone else.
Q-School winner Stacy Lewis, the former NCAA champion from Arkansas who went 5-0 in the Curtis Cup this summer in her last amateur event, was the latest who couldnt figure out from a players perspective why Wie received so much attention.
Such thinking used to be naive.
No other teenage girl came within three matches of qualifying for the Masters and nine holes of qualifying for the mens U.S. Open. No other female showed enough potential to bring in $15 million in endorsements during her junior year in high school.
But now its a fair question.
For one thing, Wie no longer has youth on her side.
One of the more memorable lines that helped create the mystique of Wie came from Tim Herron, who played with her in a junior pro-am at the Sony Open. Coming off the 18th green, Herron acted indignant when a magazine reporter asked him about Wie.
Nothing about me? Herron said. You dont want to know about my eagle? No Happy New Year, good to see you, how are you playing? All you want to know is how far some 12-year-old girl is blowing it by me?
She famously qualified for an LPGA event in seventh grade, played in the final group of an LPGA major at 13. More impressive than her score at the Sony Open ' a 68, the lowest by any female competing against men ' was her age. She was 14.
But even if Wie were to win a major this year, that would only make her the third-youngest LPGA major champion behind Morgan Pressel (18 at the Kraft Nabisco) and Yani Tseng (19 at the LPGA Championship).
Also gone is the power that once caused PGA Tour players to stop what they were doing on the range to watch her.
Wie remains a big hitter, but Lewis kept up with her on occasion, and others (Sophie Gustafson, Brittany Lincicome) have shown to be just as long if not longer. Wies strength remains her wedges around the green, and her weakness remains putting.
Shes a good player, Lewis said. But its not like shes a step above everybody else.
Another thing Wie is lacking ' and this is probably a good thing ' is controversy.
One of the most awkward moments for any Curtis Cup captain came in 2004. Martha Kirouac had to tell her U.S. team that Wie had received a special exemption to the U.S. Womens Open, and the rest of the team ' including Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang ' had to qualify.
The LPGA Championship has been for professionals only since 1955 until the criteria were changed 50 years later to invite a leading amateur. Care to guess who received that one amateur spot?
What brought her the most satisfaction about her LPGA card is that she earned it.
It was a big step for her go to Q-school just like so many great players before her ' Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, all in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Wie still hasnt won a tournament since turning pro in 2005.
When she shot 68 on the PGA Tour while in the ninth grade, one could only imagine how good she would be upon finishing high school. Now in her second year going to Stanford, there is not as much room to grow.
While recovering from wrist injuries last season that nearly derailed her career, she often wished she could go back to where she was.
Its impossible, she said. You will never be who you were when you were 14 or 15. Thats sad if you are. Im a completely different person now. Im not who I was when I was 14. Im not who I was when I was 15, 16, or 17 or 18. Im a whole new person.
She might be better than ever.
Or it could be that her best golf already is behind her.

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    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

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    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”