Shes a Pro Now - Ready or Not

By George WhiteOctober 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
There were no grave pronouncements to start her new life ' no Hello world! a la Tiger Woods. Michelle Wies first words as the latest professional golfer were, I want to thank everyone for coming today. I mean, I know its not that easy to come to Hawaii.
 
So, she isnt a polished public speaker. The giggles, the ums, you knows and I means sounded exactly like a 15-year-old ' just days shy of being 16 ' would say it 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 on 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.
 
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 of years. But people are always looking for something new and fresh and she's it right now.
 
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.
 
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 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 Michelle Wie 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.
 
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

Getty Images

'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

Getty Images

Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”