Wie Wearing Out Welcome Mat
That's not likely to happen to Michelle Wie, a 14-year-old already blessed with poise, a 100-watt smile and a picture-perfect golf swing. Then again, the last thing a young girl with designs on playing the men's tour one day and already burdened by comparisons to Tiger Woods needs is a sense of entitlement.
Wie went through more sponsors exemptions in the past year - a handful on the LPGA Tour, two more on men's minor league tours - than Woods did during his entire amateur career. And if her plans for early next year are any indication, she and her handlers aren't worried about having the welcome mat pulled out from under her anytime soon.
Last week, in a scene that was more pomp than circumstance, Wie showed up in Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle's office to accept another free invitation, this time to play in the Sony Open. The first full-field event of the PGA Tour is being staged near the teenager's home in Honolulu, and motivated as much by economic development as player development, the governor even boasted about lobbying the title sponsor for the free pass.
'I believe this will bring added exposure to the tournament and to the state. Michelle brings a lot of pride to our people. Everybody knows I'm not a golfer,' Lingle said, 'but nobody is prouder than I am of Michelle.'
The governor then proved she wasn't a golfer by praising Wie for showing 'that she has the maturity and ability to hold her own' - which is only true up to a point.
Wie had what is best described as an eventful season. She became the youngest player to win a USGA title for adults in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and made the cut in six of the seven LPGA tournaments in which she competed. It was highlighted by a tie for the ninth in the season's first major, but marred by a run-in she and her father, B.J. Wie, had with veteran pro Danielle Ammaccapane over several breaches of etiquette at the U.S. Open.
Her outings with the men, however, weren't as memorable. Playing on sponsors' exemptions and from the same tees, Wie missed the cut on the Nationwide Tour's Boise Open and the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open Players Championship.
Wie had tried earning a spot in the Sony twice before in a one-day qualifying event and failed. Maybe that's why she didn't seem the least bit fazed by how it came about this time.
'I like the easy route,' she said. 'I know how hard it can be. It's a one-day deal, and anything can happen. I like this way better.'
By the end of this year, at least a half-dozen women will have played against the men on tours around the world. It began with Annika Sorenstam, who was looking for a personal challenge at the Colonial after wearing out the competition on her own tour, and the novelty has been wearing off steadily since. The only woman to actually earn her spot, teaching pro Suzy Whaley, did it by winning a PGA club pro sectional from a shorter set of tees and then, like Sorenstam, missed the cut at the Greater Hartford Open.
Not long ago, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked whether he expected the gender-blending to continue.
'I don't see a trend involved here where a lot of tournaments are going to want women golfers to play,' he replied. 'I frankly don't think there are many that add much to a tournament at this point in time.'
Sponsors can invite anyone they want, of course, and as Sorenstam proved over the objections of Vijay Singh, the exemption couldn't have been put to better use. Likewise, Wie's appearance at the Sony will help sell tickets and juice the TV ratings. Whether she will benefit nearly as much is a trickier question.
Even while doubting that women playing on his tour would catch on, Finchem allowed that Wie might be a special case. She already drives the ball as far as many PGA regulars. 'The question on everyone's mind,' the commissioner said, 'is how far can this young gal go?'
But if Wie's ultimate destination really is the PGA Tour, her education will be better served by making her earn a place instead of having a governor shill for it. Riding the wave of celebrity has its moments, but it won't teach her anything about her golf game.
Earl Woods chose his son's spots with great care for that reason. He believed the most important thing was learning how to win. Tiger accepted a few exemptions into pro events while still a teenager, but he won three U.S. Juniors and the same number of U.S. Amateurs before he was unleashed on the PGA Tour.
'I wasn't going to send Tiger out there until I knew he could beat those guys, and I wouldn't send him out there,' Earl said, 'until he knew he could beat those guys, too.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”
Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.
Hoylake in 2006.
That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.
So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?
“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”
With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?
“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”