Notes Many LPGA Events Will Vie for Wie Sweepstakes
``I've been told they're going to work to get her in,'' said her agent, Ross Berlin.
Wie almost certainly will be joined at Mission Hills by Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang, all of whom are otherwise eligible because of high finishes in the majors.
The problem was language in the contract that required them to be LPGA Tour members. Pressel cannot join the tour until her 18th birthday in May, while Wie has no intentions of joining for two years.
But LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said last week that the Kraft Nabisco contract is 20 years old and needs to be updated, adding that ``I'm fairly certain'' Wie will be allowed to play.
Tour officials looked closely at the spirit of the contract, and realized there was some flexibility in the exemptions Kraft Nabisco typically doles out in the limited-field tournament. Rob Neal, vice president of tournament business affairs, said the Kraft contract won't be changed but will be updated to accommodate Wie and Pressel.
``This is an unprecedented situation,'' Neal said, referring to qualified teenagers who have turned pro without being LPGA members. ``The intention is they would love for these players to get in. It's really sitting down and making sure the spirit of the contract is met as we define the criteria into 2006.''
The rest of Wie's schedule might not be so simple to figure out.
She is allowed six LPGA Tour exemptions -- that doesn't include the U.S. Women's Open or the Women's British Open -- which could turn into a sweepstakes because of Wie's popularity.
Tiger Woods brought financial gain to PGA Tour events he played when he was living off sponsor exemptions, but he was trying to make enough money to get his card without going to Q-school. Woods needed those tournaments as much as they needed him.
That's not the case with Wie, who doesn't plan to join the LPGA Tour until she's 18.
Does she stay loyal to tournaments that have given her exemptions, such as the Wendy's Championship, Safeway International and Kingsmill? Or does she look at tournaments with the best fields and biggest purses that fit around a complicated schedule?
``We have close relationships with a lot of sponsors that have helped her before,'' said her father, B.J. Wie. ``It will be a tough decision. Her school schedule comes first, but sometimes we will feel obligated. She only has six choices.''
One casualty could be the Safeway International, which will be played March 16-19 and is the week before Wie goes on spring break. The week after her break is the Kraft Nabisco.
As for the rest of the year? Berlin said they have not decided where she is playing on any of the tours, although he expects her to play between 11 and 15 events.
Ryan Moore tied for 16th in Las Vegas and now has $598,249, which would be equivalent to 120th place on the PGA Tour. His earnings need to be at least equal to No. 125 at the end of the year to become the first player since Tiger Woods to earn his card without going to Q-school.
There are only three tournaments left in the season -- the Funai Classic at Disney this week, the Chrysler Championship near Tampa, Fla., and the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, which was delayed by Hurricane Katrina.
Moore wasn't the only one who made up ground in Las Vegas.
Nick Watney shot 66 Sunday for a career-best tie for sixth, moving him from 143rd to 118th on the money list. Briny Baird was 7-under 29 on the back nine Sunday to tie for eighth and move from No. 132 to No. 116, where he should be safe. Harrison Frazar secured his card with a tie for third, moving from No. 122 to No. 96.
Up the food chain, Charles Howell III was fifth in Las Vegas and moved up 12 spots to No. 30 on the money list as he tries to qualify for the Tour Championship. If nothing else, it probably secured Howell a spot in the Masters next year.
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP
Moving up to No. 2 on the LPGA Tour money list gave Paula Creamer the first shot at representing the United States in the Women's World Cup next year in South Africa.
The 19-year-old rookie doubts she will make up her mind until the season-ending ADT Championship next month -- not only whether she plays, but who would be her partner. If she declines, the choice goes to Cristie Kerr.
Annika Sorenstam confirmed she would play, taking Liselotte Neumann as her partner.
Chris DiMarco was the star of the show at the Presidents Cup. Not only did he go 4-0-1 and sink the winning putt. He was the best American player in the all-important table tennis tournament.
All the talk is usually who wins between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
But Woods wrote on his Web site last week that DiMarco beat him in the finals of the round-robin tournament.
``Chris might have a second career in table tennis, he's that good,'' Woods said. ``His hand-eye coordination is amazing, and he puts a lot of spin on the ball.''
As for Woods vs. Mickelson?
One person in the room said Woods won the first game, then the second. Mickelson asked to make it best three-out-of-five and won the third game, at which point Woods put down the paddle and said, ``I win, 2-1.''
Nike Golf has entered the women's golf ball category with ``Super Lady,'' designed to produce higher trajectory shots. ... Jay Haas and Bill Haas are on their respective bubbles. Jay Haas is 30th on the Champions Tour money list and needs to stay there to qualify for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Bill Haas is 21st on the Nationwide Tour money list, with PGA Tour cards going to the top 21 players. ... The European tour will try to keep weekends uncluttered by reducing the number of players who make the 36-hole cut to the top 65 and ties. ... Sergio Garcia of Spain is the only player from the top 10 in the world ranking who will play in the World Cup next month in Portugal.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jay Haas has earned $512,153 playing eight times on the Champions Tour. He has made $485,109 in twice as many starts on the PGA Tour.
``I was only there for two days, so it's tough for me to tell.'' -- Annika Sorenstam, when asked what it takes for a woman to succeed on the PGA Tour.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Schauffele just fine being the underdog
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.
Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.
Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.
“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”
Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.
“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”
Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1
Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.
So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.
Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.
Jordan Spieth: 7/4
Xander Schauffele: 5/1
Kevin Kisner: 11/2
Tiger Woods: 14/1
Francesco Molinari: 14/1
Rory McIlroy: 14/1
Kevin Chappell: 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1
Alex Noren: 25/1
Zach Johnson: 30/1
Justin Rose: 30/1
Matt Kuchar: 40/1
Webb Simpson: 50/1
Adam Scott: 80/1
Tony Finau: 80/1
Charley Hoffman: 100/1
Austin Cook: 100/1
Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.
For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.
By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.
But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.
As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.
“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”
Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.
As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.
But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.
After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.
“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”
But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.
Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.
“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.
There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.
Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par.
And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.
As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.
“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”
Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.
Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.
The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.
Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.
It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.
Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.
One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.
McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”
McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.
“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”