Notes Pressel Fires Salvo at Wie
During a conference call for the Fields Open in Hawaii, the 17-year-old rookie said Michelle Wie should have to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open instead of getting an exemption.
Several veterans were outraged when Wie got a a special exemption to the Women's Open in 2004, although she tied for 13th to earn a trip back. Last year, Wie was tied for the lead going into the final round at Cherry Hills until closing with an 82 to tie for 23rd. Only the top 20 and ties are exempt the following year.
Pressel, who tied for second at Cherry Hills, said she doesn't think Wie will get an exemption this time.
'I'd be very surprised, just because of what happened last time,' Pressel said. 'I don't think she needs an exemption. I've been through qualifying. Everybody who doesn't make it on the money list, other amateurs, other professionals that aren't members of the tour, they all have to go through qualifying, too.
'I don't see why she shouldn't, or why she should be afraid, or expect an exemption.'
Even so, USGA executive director David Fay sounded as though that were a possibility -- provided Wie 'earned' her exemption in the LPGA Tour events she plays before qualifying begins for the Open.
'She's not exempt now,' Fay said. 'But she's in limbo.'
The 16-year-old from Hawaii is exempt into the other three majors based on her '05 performance -- runner-up at the LPGA Championship and a tie for third at the Women's British Open.
Along with being the biggest draw in women's golf, one reason Wie received a special invitation in 2004 was because money she would have earned on the LPGA was equivalent to the top 35 on the LPGA money list, which is one of the criteria for being exempt.
Wie turned pro in October, although she is not a member of the LPGA Tour because of her age. Whatever money she earns does not appear on the money list. That's why Fay refers to her being in limbo.
'Let's say she were to do well enough in women's events she's going to be playing this winter and spring that if she were a member, her earnings would be such that she would be exempt,' Fay said. 'I think you'd be hard-pressed to explain why you wouldn't allow her to play.'
The only way for Wie to avoid qualifying is to win on the LPGA Tour, and her only two chances likely will be the Fields Open or the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Fay said for the USGA not to consider her earnings -- and where that puts her on the money list -- would be holding Wie's age against her.
'How else could she qualify without winning an event?' Fay said.
The USGA had its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta, and Fay said there has been no decision on a special invitation. But it sounds as though Wie will need to play well in her limited starts.
The record will show that Luke Donald tied for 52nd in the British Open, although barring a future victory, it might rank among his most memorable majors.
Donald played the first two rounds with Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, who ended his major championship career at St. Andrews. Donald still has several pictures of the three as they crossed the Swilcan Bridge that Friday afternoon.
'They're sitting in Jack's locker at the Bear's Club waiting for him to sign when he goes there,' Donald said. 'He only plays there about twice a year, so we'll see how long that will take.'
More than the pictures or the commemorative bank notes of Nicklaus (four of those are waiting to be signed), Donald won't forget the scene walking up the final few holes.
'You're walking up the 18th, every window of every building there were people watching,' Donald said. 'I saw Ernie Els looking out on the 17th of the (Old Course) hotel. I mean, everyone was watching. This was a huge moment in golf, and to be playing with him was pretty special. It was a great treat.'
HOME ON THE RANGE
Michelle Wie might feel like she's at home in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Her family is buying a house at Bighorn Golf Club, where Wie made her professional debut at the Samsung World Championship in October. Bighorn is about 15 minutes away from Mission Hills, site of the LPGA's first major.
'We would like to use our Bighorn house as often as possible for Michelle's golf training and vacation,' said her father, B.J. Wie. 'It will also be very convenient to stay at Bighorn during the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Samsung World Championship.'
Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade have distributed $239,000 to more than 41 children's charities in New England through their annual CVS Charity Classic. The Andrade-Faxon Charities for Children also donated $100,000 to the Rhode Island chapter of the American Red Cross for families who fled from Hurricane Katrina. ... Morgan Pressel turned pro in November, but a car will have to wait for the 17-year-old senior in high school. 'I don't have my license,' she said last week. Pressel said Florida law requires a permit for one year, and she never got around to getting that until after the U.S. Women's Open.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Since his first full season in 1993, Phil Mickelson has gone only three years without winning on the West Coast swing. Two of those years (1999, 2003), he ended the season without a PGA Tour victory.
'Most people work all their life to be able to retire and play golf. I've played golf all my life to retire and go to work.' -- Jack Nicklaus.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy
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."
Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup
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."
Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two
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).
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.
New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more
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.
“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.”