Waialae to be Wies Wonderland
Put her on the golf course, she doesn't act her age.
Not even close.
How many other ninth-grade girls can hit a golf ball 300 yards?
Tom Lehman played with her in a junior pro-am two years ago and thought her swing compared so favorably to Ernie Els that he called her the 'Big Wiesy.'
'She probably has one of the best golf swings I've ever seen, period,' Davis Love III said. 'She's got a lot going for her. Plus, she's tall and strong. No telling what she's going to do when she gets a little older.'
The PGA Tour is about to get a sneak preview.
Wie, who played in the final group of an LPGA Tour major last year and twice teed it up against the men on developmental tours, takes her awesome potential to the highest level this week when she plays in the Sony Open.
And she's not treating this like recess at Punahou School.
'It will be really sad if I mess up,' Wie said. 'I really want to make the cut, no matter what. Because I think I can. I think I should.'
A slender 6-footer, Wie looks older than her 14 years. She is believed to be the youngest player ever on the PGA Tour, and that's what makes her appearance at Waialae Country Club so compelling.
It's not just her gender -- Annika Sorenstam at the Colonial was the first woman in 58 years on the PGA Tour, and six other women played against the men last year.
It's her age.
While she is playing the Sony Open against Els, Love and Vijay Singh, her classmates at Punahou School will be taking their final exams (Wie took all her exams -- except Social Studies -- last week).
'I wanted to get a spot in the Greater Seattle Junior when I was 14,' Fred Couples said.
'Can you imagine?' Els said. 'I played my first British Open at 19, and I was way out of my place. Playing on tour at 14, it's a hell of an achievement.'
Not even Sorenstam can appreciate what Wie will face at the Sony Open.
Sorenstam already had won an NCAA title, more than 40 times on the LPGA Tour, four majors and played on four Solheim Cup teams when she accepted an invitation to the Colonial.
'I thought I had done everything, and it was tough,' Sorenstam said of the Colonial, where she missed the cut by five shots. 'If she's just going there to learn, she's going to learn a lot. She's jumping into the lion's pit, and she's got to deal with it.'
Unlike Sorenstam, who said the Colonial was a one-time challenge, Wie views the Sony as only the start.
She tried to Monday qualify for the Sony Open last year, but her 73 was off by six shots. For the last two years, she has talked about wanting to play both tours -- PGA and LPGA -- and some day in the Masters.
'If I keep on working, and keep improving every year, I think I can get that high,' she said.
The Sony Open gave her a sponsor's exemption after a whirlwind season.
Wie played seven times on the LPGA Tour, missing the cut only once. She missed the cut on the Canadian Tour and Nationwide Tour, and her only victory in any event came at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, making her the youngest winner of a USGA event for grown-ups.
She has big dreams for the Sony Open and her career.
'Keeping the goal high is our family policy,' said her father, B.J. Wie.
When she was 7 and just starting to play golf, her father asked Wie to watch the end of the '97 Masters, where Tiger Woods won by 12 shots.
'I saw him walk down the fairway of Augusta,' Wie said. 'My dad was a really big fan of Tiger. He'd say, 'Watch how he swings.' He put posters from Golf Digest all over my room. My whole room was filled with Tiger, Tiger. I get mad at my dad because my dad doesn't have a picture of ME in his wallet. He has two pictures of Tiger.'
B.J. Wie, a transportation professor at the University of Hawaii, pulled out his wallet and showed the only two pictures he carries. One of them is Woods at the top of his backswing, the other is Woods at the end of his swing.
'I show them to her all the time,' he said with a smile.
Wie already has had a Tigeresque career, minus the victories.
At age 10, she shot a 9-under-par 64 on her home course, Olomana Golf Links. Later that year, she became the youngest player to qualify for the Women's Amateur Public Links, losing in the first round.
In 2001, at the ripe age of 11, she advanced to the third round of the WAPL by beating current U.S. Women's Open champion Hilary Lunke.
For all her experience, one thing Wie doesn't have is a lot of victories.
That's what raises eyebrows among some PGA Tour players.
Woods met Wie for the first time during the pro-am round at the Mercedes Championships.
'I didn't realize she was taller than I am,' he cracked.
Woods thinks the experience will be invaluable, but there is no substitute for winning.
'I learned the art of winning,' Woods said. '(Phil) Mickelson did the same thing. He won at every level. When he came out here, he knew he could win. I felt the same way.'
Singh predicted stardom for Wie last year during the Pro-Junior event at the Sony Open. Then again, he had no idea she would be taking such big steps so quickly.
'You put young kids out there to learn how to win golf tournaments,' Singh said. 'For Michelle, she's not winning. It's always a negative when you don't win. She's not going to do that playing against the men.'
B.J. Wie considers the Sony Open an opportunity that cannot be ignored. His philosophy: The only way to get better is to play against the best.
He thinks his daughter can make the cut, and has nothing to lose.
'She's competing with PGA players, the best players in the world,' B.J. Wie said. 'If she doesn't make the cut, that's natural. She's competing with Ernie Els. There's no way she can beat Ernie Els. But she will meet the best players in the world, have a practice round with Ernie Els. What can you ask more than that?'
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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust
While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):
7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood
Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.
8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka
There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.
8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau
Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.
12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An
Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.
12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau
There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.
Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?
We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.
Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.
I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.
That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.
In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.
My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.
Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.
It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.
So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?
We hope it isn’t his back.
Or his neck.
Or his knees.
Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.
Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.
Competitively, it’s all that matters.
Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.
We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?
The game soars to yet another level with that.
A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.
So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.
The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.
They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.
They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.
Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.
And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.
The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.
Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.
For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.
There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.
Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.
Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work
NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.
"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.
Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.
Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.
Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener
Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.
Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.
A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.
The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.
"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."
The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.
Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.
Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.