Love It or Loathe It Shes a Pro Now
So, she isnt a polished public speaker. The giggles, the ums, you knows and I means sounded exactly a 15-year-old ' just days shy of being 16 ' would say if she were suddenly thrust in front of a highly inquisitive world.
That doesnt matter, though. Michelle Wie needs only to be a polished professional golfer. Along the way, she showed signs of being a philanthropist ' she announced that her first gift would be one of $500,000 to the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. As an American citizen, I felt it was my duty, she said.
This day has been a long time coming for her. From the first time I grabbed a golf club, I knew that, you know, I would do it for the rest of my life, and I loved it, she said. But the decision really came down to the last couple of months ' I felt really ready, I felt mature enough, I felt comfortable enough out there.
Her decision to turn professional has polarized an entire world of golf fans. Some are ardently in her corner, others are adamantly against her. Those who regularly peek at my rants know that I am among those who think she should do whatever she thinks appropriate.
However, neither I, nor those who think that this is a terrible mistake, matter too much in the grand scheme of things. The opinions that really matter are the professional players, those who have been down this path before and who will be sharing a professional platform with Wie. Here are their views, collected over the course of two years:
ANNIKA SORENSTAM ' Shes impressive. Shes very talented. She hits the ball a long way. Shes very mature in the golf course. I love her golf swing. The potential is there in the future ... Shes so young, she has many years ahead of her that shes going in the right direction and I think shell be good for the future of womens golf.
JOHN DALY - My only concern is that she is going to be burnt out before she gets to maybe the peak that she wants to get to. I think most of the guys on tour were really rooting for her at the Public Links. I know I was. It would be cool to see her play in the Masters, but my concern for her is that she is still a baby. She is only 15 years old and she has got a lot of other things that she needs to learn in life as well; the biggest concern that I see is that you just do not want to burn that talent out before she reaches her peak. Like everybody else does, we just wish her the best and we love watching her play golf. She is phenomenal.
MEG MALLON: You just don't know what is going to happen down the road. I love that she's 15 and she has that goal (to eventually play the mens tour). Why not? Good for her, I hope it's her goal. It sounds like it is. So if that's what she wants to do then, that's absolutely wonderful. I hope she gets the opportunity to do that.
ERNIE ELS ' I think we've got a different person here. I think from when she was 13, she wanted to play out here on the PGA Tour, and I think to make a difference in life, and that's what she's after, to make a difference. She wants to be different and she definitely is going to be different if she can get to her goals.
I don't think you should stand in her way. I think her dad and her mom are doing what they feel best for Michelle, and that's to let her go and do what she wants to do. Her dream is to play out here with us. I think at the end of the day, Michelle probably if she wants to play on (the mens) tour, when she gets old enough will have to go through tour school, get through that. She'll be very welcome on tour. She will definitely get every sponsor exemption she asks for.
JIM FURYK: (Answering a question whether she would be taking someones spot in the field) Well, see, I have a problem with that argument in that it's a sponsor's spot. It's not really their spot. ESPN asked me a question yesterday, was I surprised that she was in the field again this year. And I said, Hey, if anyone was going to have a surprise, it would have been last year. After the attention she had gained and the notoriety that she had gained and the attention the tournament (Sony Open) gained probably not only nationwide but worldwide, it was a no-brainer. You just expected that she would be in the field again because it was such good publicity and such a good thing for this golf tournament. I would expect that she would be here.
Will it bother some players if she got an exemption somewhere else? I'm sure it would. I'm not one of those people.
CRISTIE KERR: She's so young, and she's so talented and it's really not a normal situation that somebody that young would be that good, and, in a sense tournament tested. I just hope she wants to play on our tour because we really need her and she can bring in so many new sponsors and fans. And in a sense, not to discredit Annika - Annika does an amazing job - but sponsors look at certain people differently. For her (Wie), she's just got this aura around her that makes people want to pay attention and Annika has done that for a lot a lot of years. But people are always looking for something new and fresh and she's it right now.
PHIL MICKELSON ' Well, five years from now, she is going to be 20, which is still so young and she has such a long career ahead of her. I do not care if she plays in one of these things tomorrow or in a few years from now. She is such an incredible talent that her chance to play in these will be for years and her chances to play in big events, whether it is mens tour events, whether it is womens tour events, will be for many, many years. So I guess what I am saying is there is no rush. To be only 15, it is just incredible to be playing the way she is.
TOM LEHMAN: I think there's a great deal of respect for her talent. I think she proved to everybody last year (at the Sony Open) that being that she lives here, that she deserves a spot in the field. I think everybody pulls for her. I think that's really probably the most important thing. I think everybody out here is pulling for her. She doesn't step on anybody's toes. She's respectful. I think people respect her talent as well.
DAVID TOMS: I think it's obviously good for the tournament. I mean, there's a reason that she's here. I've been watching her lately. She's played extremely well. You know, I'm for it if every tournament wants to do what's best for that tournament, and the strongest field they can possibly have, the notoriety that they can have. I don't have any problem with it whatsoever, and I wish her well. She's obviously a great talent, and she'll add a buzz to this tournament that otherwise wouldn't be here. I mean, she's as nice as can be.
PAUL AZINGER: She's phenomenal. There's no shame in losing to her. We were talking about it today (at the Sony Open) on 17. One guy in my group was 5-over with two to go and he birdied the last two holes, and Ted Purdy saw me the other day, and was grinding not to let Michelle beat him. I said, No shame to lose to go that girl. She's awesome. She hits it like a man.
JILL McGILL: She's proven that she can compete with the best women golfers in the world, and if she feels as though her goal is to play against the men and play on the PGA Tour, who am I to say no? If that's what you want to do, I wish her the best of luck. I hope she does accomplish it, because I think that she does nothing but good things not only for the women, but also for the men. I think it draws more attention to them. I think it draws a lot of attention to our tour.
And I get a little tired of people saying, Oh, you know, her aspirations are too high. I mean, whatever your goals are, I think you should set them and you should go for them. She stated what they are and I think she's working towards that. You can't take that away from her.
Not every pro golfer agrees that she is doing the right thing, of course. And goodness knows, not all the great unwashed public believe she is correct, either. But I say let her do her thing. She is ready physically. If she is ready mentally, it should be quite a ride over the next 30 years.
"The Men In Blazers" Hosting Nightly Show From The Open, July 18-22 on NBCSN
Show to Include Off-beat Interviews, Unique Features and Men In Blazers Distinctive Takes on The Open
Culminating in France’s thrilling win on Sunday, NBC Sports’ critically-acclaimed The Men In Blazers – Roger Bennett and Michael Davies – have spent the past month breaking down all of the action surrounding the FIFA World Cup. However, there will be no rest for the duo as they leave behind their Panic Room studio in the “crap part of SoHo” in Manhattan to host a nightly show in conjunction with The 147TH Open. The show will feature the pair’s signature, unconventional style in providing unique takes on golf’s original championship while “sporting an arsenal of the finest golf sweaters that could be found on eBay.” Originating from Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, Men In Blazers will air nightly on NBCSN Wednesday, July 18 through Sunday, July 22.
In addition to delivering a series of features for NBC Sports’ coverage surrounding The Open, the nightly Men In Blazers show on NBCSN will offer expanded highlights following each round; off-beat interviews, special guests and cameos; along with non-traditional stories highlighting cultural elements relevant to Carnoustie and The Open.
“Both Davo and I grew up with The Open being the heartbeat of our sporting year,” said Bennett. “To cover it from that beautiful monster that is Carnoustie is the honor of a lifetime. We look forward to savoring every attempt to tame Hogan’s Alley, the futile battle between man and nature, and all those ‘subtle’ Ian Poulter wardrobe changes, in equal measure.”
Dedicated features being showcased over the duration of the week include: a retrospect on past Opens having been staged at Carnoustie; an in-depth recollection of the unforgettable 1999 Open; an introduction to the second-oldest golf shop in the world; a history lesson on Carnoustie and its influence on golf around the world; and an examination of Carnoustie’s local delicacy known as “bridies”.
MEN IN BLAZERS AIRTMES FOR THE 147TH OPEN WEEK (All Times EST)
Wednesday, July 18 11-11:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Thursday, July 19 11-11:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Friday, July 20 1-1:30 a.m. (NBCSN, Saturday overnight)
Saturday, July 21 11:30 p.m.-Midnight (NBCSN)
Sunday, July 22 10-10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Woods delofts 2-iron to use off Carnoustie tees
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods has been effective this season hitting a 2-iron off many tees, reverting to a version of the stinger shot he made so popular.
This week at baked out and brown Carnoustie he went to the next level, adding a new 2-iron to his bag that he bent to 17 degrees, down from his normal 20-degree version.
“I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there,” he explained on Tuesday.
Woods said he still carries the club about the same distance, from 245 to 250 yards, but “it gets to its final destination much differently [on the ground].”
“Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I've generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option,” he said. “This one's not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It's more of a driving club.”
After playing two practice rounds, Woods said he wasn’t sure how much he would use the new 2-iron given the dry conditions which have led to ridiculously long tee shots, and he said he might adjust the club more if the course doesn’t slow down.
“If it softens up, it could be a good club,” he said. “If it doesn't soften up, then I might just add a degree to it and keep it a little softer and not have it so hot.”
The Open is the second consecutive event where Woods has added to his bag. At The National earlier this month, he went with a new mallet-headed putter that he plans to continue to use this week.
Europeans out to end the recent American dominance
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In golf’s biggest events, the Americans have left the rest of the world feeling red, white and mostly blue.
If you’re wondering whether the U.S. currently holds a meaningful title, the answer is probably yes.
Golf’s four majors? Yep.
The Ryder Cup? Indeed.
The No. 1 player in the world? Absolutely.
The Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Palmer and Curtis Cups? Uh-huh.
It’s been a popular talking point at the men’s majors, as Europe’s finest players have been peppered about why they’ve all seemingly fallen under Uncle Sam’s spell.
After all, the Americans haven’t ripped off five major wins in a row like this since 1981-82 – when Justin Rose was still in diapers.
“I don’t know what I’d put it to down to,” the Englishman said Tuesday, “other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong.”
Since 2000, the Americans have taken titles at eight of the nine courses on the modern Open rota. The only one they’ve yet to conquer is Carnoustie, and that’s probably because they’ve only had one crack at it, in 2007, when an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, prevailed in a playoff.
Not since Tom Watson in 1975 has a U.S. player survived Carnoustie, arguably the most difficult links on the planet. But Americans ranging from Dustin Johnson to Tiger Woods comprise six of the oddsmakers' top 10 favorites, all listed at 25/1 or better.
“America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, other than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.
“You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors.”
Indeed, there’s not a fluke among them.
Since this American run began last summer at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka (twice), Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have hoisted trophies. All were inside the top 25 in the world when they won. All were multiple-time winners on the world stage before that major. And all, most ominously for Europe, were 29 or younger.
“There’s a bit of camaraderie amongst all of them,” Rose said. “I know Brooks and Dustin are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”
That’s why there’s even more anticipation than usual for the Ryder Cup. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil in a quarter century, but this band of brothers is better and closer than those who have tried and failed before them. Couple that with a few aging stars on the European side, and there’s a growing sense that the Americans could be on the verge of a dominant stretch.
That should sound familiar.
During an eight-major span in 2010-11, the most common refrain was: What’s Wrong with American Golf? International players captured seven consecutive majors, including six in a row at one point. They took over the top spot in the world rankings. They turned the Ryder Cup into a foregone conclusion. In the fall of 2010, Colin Montgomerie pounded his chest and declared that there’d been a “changing of the guard over to Europe,” and it was hard to find fault in his reasoning.
“European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”
Because it wasn’t.
So even though it’s been more than a year since an International player held any title of consequence, these types of runs are cyclical, and Europe in particular has no shortage of contenders.
Major drought or not, McIlroy is a threat every time he tees it up. Rose turns 38 in two weeks, but he’s playing arguably the best golf of his career, recording a top-10 finish in a ridiculous 17 of his past 21 starts. Fleetwood is fresh off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, where he closed with 63. Jon Rahm is a top-5 machine. Alex Noren just won on the Ryder Cup course in France.
“I think Tommy, clearly, showed how close the Europeans are to challenging that dominance as well,” Rose said. “So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just that they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week.”
Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.
It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.
“I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”
During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.
During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.
He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.
Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.
In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.
This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.
“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”
If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.
“[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”
Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.
“Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”
It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.
“It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”
Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.
Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.