Wie Part of Dream Teens at Curtis Cup
After one practice round, 17-year-old Jane Park slid behind a piano and belted out Disney songs from 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Aladdin,' as 14-year-old Michelle Wie stood behind her and twirled to the tunes.
They giggled and gossiped at night. The players strutted through the quaint downtown after dinner. They squealed during walks on the beach while daring each other to poke jellyfish that had washed ashore.
'Way too disgusting for me,' Wie said.
Never have three high school students - Wie, Park and Paula Creamer - been on one Curtis Cup team. Never has the eight-woman team of amateurs failed to include anyone over age 25.
And never has so much focus been on one player.
Wie, the youngest of them all, generates so much hype that the Curtis Cup has never received this much attention.
Some 6,000 fans are expected June 12-13 at Formby Golf Club in England, where the United States will try to retain the only cup it owns outright. Europe and British teams already have the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and Walker Cup, while the Presidents Cup ended in a tie.
For most of the English fans, it will be their first chance to see a 6-foot, ninth-grader from Hawaii who has twice contended for majors on the LPGA Tour and came within one shot of making the cut on the PGA Tour.
Wie commands a presence, which U.S. captain Martha Wilkinson Kirouac sees as a blessing and a curse.
'I'd like to get to the point of being a team of eight,' she said. 'I think we'll get there.'
Kirouac, 54, has some experience with youth and star power.
She played on the 1972 Curtis Cup with 16-year-old Laura Baugh, at the time the youngest player in Curtis Cup history. Also on that team was 18-year-old Hollis Stacy, who went on to win three U.S. Women's Open.
'It was a little bit of a challenge because we had two very young players,' Kirouac said. 'The difference was, you had somebody there who had previous Curtis Cup experience. You had people to create a mentoring role.'
She doesn't have that luxury with this team.
The oldest player is 22-year-old Sarah Huarte of Cal, who just won the NCAA title. Five others are teenagers, although two of them are in college (Brittany Lang of Duke and Erica Blasberg of Arizona).
Kirouac was worried about having so many young players until she watched them performed. Now, her concern has shifted to her biggest star.
All the Curtis Cup players have solid credentials. None has the Q-rating of Wie. None know what it's like to live in a fish bowl. None has ever played before the kind of galleries Wie routinely attracts.
'I want somebody who can help her, influence her, but somebody who is self-assured living in the shadow of Michelle,' Kirouac said. 'And there will be a shadow.'
The four-day practice session at Sea Island got off to a rocky start.
As Kirouac tried to make Wie one of the girls, the USGA announced that Wie had received an exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open. Making the timing even worse, this is the first year that all Curtis Cup players do not get a free pass to the biggest event in women's golf.
Kirouac told the rest of the team before Wie arrived from Hawaii.
'I wanted them to have a chance to come to grips with it,' she said. 'Have I got some disappointed players? You bet. Have they got a right to be disappointed? You bet.'
The most sticky situation was Creamer, a 17-year-old with one year left in high school and one of the most accomplished American Junior Golf Association players ever. A tall blonde from Pleasanton, Calif., she already has developed a rivalry with Wie, even though Wie doesn't play AJGA events.
'I play with tons of junior golfers over the summer, and she's just another junior golfer,' Creamer said last year at the U.S. Women's Open, after posting a better score while playing with Wie in the final stage of qualifying. 'I don't really see her as someone beyond me. I've played her twice and beat her both times.'
Kirouac put Creamer and Wie together the first day of practice, and every time she drove by in a cart, both teenagers lit up the course with dynamic smiles.
Halfway through their training camp, everyone was geared toward the same goal: winning the Curtis Cup.
As Creamer headed to the shops at Sea Island, Wie called out in a singsong voice, 'Have fun. Bye, princess.'
Both girls cracked up laughing.
'We're very close now,' Creamer said. 'There's going to be that rivalry on the golf course because everyone is competitive. But I do consider her one of my close friends. We're going to be seeing a lot of each other.'
While the Americans have gelled nicely, the perception is different across the Atlantic.
GB&I captain Ada O'Sullivan made no secret about using Wie as a motivational tool for her team.
'There hasn't been a lot of talk amongst the girls about Michelle Wie,' O'Sullivan told Golfweek magazine. 'It's me who has been bringing it up to them. She is my reverse trump card. I've been saying to them, 'Who would not like to play against Michelle Wie? And they have all said they would relish the chance to play against her.'
It is reminiscent of Gary Wolstenholme, a short-hitting amateur from England, beating Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup. A two-time British Amateur champion, Wolstenholme is best known for that moment.
But this American team is more than one player, and Kirouac said she would not hesitate to sit Wie in a singles match the first day. The format calls for three alternate-shot and six singles matches both days.
'They look at this team like this,' she said, holding her arms up in the shape of a tower. 'They think if they can knock Michelle off, this whole team will crumble. They think without Michelle, we're nothing. They don't understand our depth. Michelle is like a shield out front, drawing all that flak. Everyone else is playing in relative anonymity behind her, but playing very, very well.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.
The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.
''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''
The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.
''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''
Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.
''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''
Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162
The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.
McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year
ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.
Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.
Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.
“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.
McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.
“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”
Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist
ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.
After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.
He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.
“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.
Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.
“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”
Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead
ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.
Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.
Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.
“I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”
Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.
“It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.