Wie Slated for Big Announcement Wednesday

By Associated PressOctober 1, 2005, 4:00 pm
Michelle Wie will stick to her routine by going to school Wednesday, with one notable exception.
 
She will be the only junior at Punahou School who already is a millionaire.
 
Six days before she turns 16, still not old enough to drive car by herself, the 6-foot prodigy will turn professional with two endorsement deals that will make her the richest female golfer.
 
Two sources involved with her decision, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wie will make the announcement Wednesday in Honolulu (Watch it Live on TGC at 2PM/ET) at the Kahala Mandarin Hotel near Waialae Country Club, where she twice played in the Sony Open and shot 68 as a 14-year-old.
 
The time was set early so she could still go to school. That weekend, she will fly to the California desert and make her professional debut in the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn.
 
But the money will start pouring in no matter how she fares in the 18-player field.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie is expected to become the richest female player ever.
The sources said Wie will sign two major endorsements, with Nike and Sony.
 
One source said the Nike contract would pay her about $4 million to $5 million a year. Nike prefers its athletes to have a clean look with no other logos, meaning Wie would have the swoosh on her cap and clothing. Tiger Woods has a dozen sponsors, but only the Nike logo is displayed on his clothing.
 
Wie has been using Nike equipment the last few years, and wearing its apparel.
 
The other major endorsement is with Sony, which is believed to be worth close to the Nike deal.
 
Sony officials got to know Wie during her two appearances at the Sony Open. She shot 68 in the second round last year -- the lowest score ever by a female competing on a men's tour -- and missed the cut by one shot. She returned this year and shot 75-74 in blustery conditions to miss the cut by seven shots.
 
One executive from Sony walked all 18 holes of her second round in 2004.
 
Along with appearance money to play overseas, Wie could bring in about $10 million a year beyond whatever she makes on the golf course. Annika Sorenstam, whose 66 victories on the LPGA Tour include nine majors and the career Grand Slam, earns about $6 million a year in endorsements.
 
Along with playing in the Samsung World Championship on Oct. 13 -- two days after she turns 16 -- Wie will play the Casio World Open in Japan the week of Thanksgiving, her first tournament overseas against the men.
 
``The courses in Japan are not as tough as here, they're not as long as they are in the United States,'' Shigeki Maruyama said Friday from the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. ``She should have a very good chance of making the cut over there.''
 
Wie figures to have even greater recognition overseas, especially in Asia, than in the United States. She was born in Honolulu and has a Korean heritage, and speaks to her parents primarily in Korean.
 
``The LPGA is very popular in Japan,'' Maruyama said. ``She will be a big star.''
 
Wie is unlikely to play any other tournaments this year.
 
Nike most likely will build an ad campaign around her decision to turn pro, although not to the extent of its ``Hello, World'' ad when Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996 at age 20 after winning six straight USGA titles.
 
Wie is more about potential, a prodigy who already was hitting the ball like a PGA Tour player when she was still wearing a retainer. She first caught players' attention while playing in a junior pro-am at the Sony Open when she was 12. Tom Lehman thought her swing was so fluid he called her the ``Big Wiesy,'' because she reminded him of Ernie Els.
 
Wednesday's announcement will end an amateur chapter in her career in which she spent more time playing against the pros. Wie already has played 24 times on the LPGA Tour, and has not missed a cut in the last two years.
 
She was runner-up at the LPGA Championship to Annika Sorenstam in June, and tied for third at the Women's British Open in July. Both are majors on the LPGA Tour.
 
Wie also has competed five times against the men, without making a cut -- three on the PGA Tour, once on the Nationwide Tour and once on the Canadian Tour.
 
Her father said his daughter's routine would not change despite her status as a professional and the amount of money she will earn. B.J. Wie said he would stay at the University of Hawaii, where he is a professor, and Michelle would spend her final two years at Punahou School before going to college.
 
Wie will not challenge the LPGA Tour's policy that members be 18 years old. Instead, she will take sponsor's exemptions -- a maximum of six on the LPGA Tour, excluding the U.S. Women's Open or the Women's British Open. She can take up to seven on the PGA Tour, although it is not likely she will accept that many.
 
The announcement comes a week before her final LPGA Tour start to deflect some of the media attention. Some have scrutinized Wie the last two years for not playing more against girls her own age to pile up trophies.
 
Her most noteworthy victory was the 2003 U.S. Woman's Amateur Public Links, which she captured at age 13 to become the youngest champion of a USGA championship for adults. She lost in the finals of the WAPL a year later, but never reached the finals of the U.S. Junior Girls or U.S. Women's Amateur.
 
Her path has been different from the start.
 
She was winning state amateur events before she got out of elementary school, and qualified for her first LPGA Tour event -- the Takefugi Classic in 2002 -- before she was eligible for some junior tours like the American Junior Golf Association.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”