Topsy-Turvy Year for Wie

By George WhiteDecember 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 5 from this past season.
 
You love her, you loathe her. No one feels ambivalent about her. But there is no denying that one of the biggest sports stories of 2006 was the continuing saga of teen-ager Michelle Wie.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie had some good moments in 2006, like three top-5 finishes in LPGA majors.
The year was filled with both the good ' top-5 finishes in three of the four LPGA majors, a runner-up in the Evian Masters ' and the bad ' missed cuts in all three of her PGA TOUR appearances as well as in European and Japanese tour events. Along the way she made almost $20 million in endorsements, appearance money and purse money. And its all almost become a blur to the senior high school student in Honolulu, Hawaii.
 
Whether I play good or play bad, said Wie, I end the week knowing that I tried my hardest. It doesn't discourage me at all. ... I'm still young, so I'm still learning.
 
Her year began slowly, Wie missing the cut by four strokes in the PGA TOURs Sony Open in her home state. But when she began competing against women, she quickly zoomed to the top ' a third-place finish in the Fields Open, followed by another third in her first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. In that attempt, Wie was leading the field during the final nine holes of the tournament, only to finish just one shot out of a playoff.
 
She finished tied for fifth in the McDonalds LPGA Championship, tied for third at the U.S. Womens Open. A tie for 26th in the Weetabix Womens British Open was the only blot on an exemplary womens-major finish.
 
Take away the Womens British and a tie for 27th in the Samsung World Championship, and Wies average finish in womens events this year was a gaudy 3.5. However, against the men, she lost ground over her 2005 season ' she didnt come close to making a cut on the PGA TOUR or the European Tour or the Japanese Tour. And then there was her failed attempt at qualifying for the mens U.S. Open, where she made it through the first stage, but faltered late in Stage 2.
 
She did make the cut in the SK Telecom Open on the mens Asian Tour, but in that one against second-rate Far East pros she finished 35th.
 
A 17-year-old girl finishing so highly in the womens majors is a story unto itself. However, in trying and failing so often against the men, Wie gained a whole host of critics who vehemently objected that she should attempt to compete against men. And Wie definitely is aware of those negative sentiments ' but she will continue to tee it up against the gents whenever she gets an invitation.
 
A lot of people think that I have to master the LPGA before I can get to the PGA (TOUR), said Wie. But my feeling is a little bit different on that because they're so different.
 
Obviously, I'm playing the maximum number of LPGA tournaments that I can, and I'm trying to win a lot of tournaments there. But it's just so different out here that I feel like I have to play in PGA TOUR events to get better at PGA TOUR events, and I just have to go through it and work on it and learn from it. That's the way that I learn how to do it on the LPGA, as well, and I just think that I have to go through the same progress here. I know it's not going to come overnight. It's just a long learning progress.
 
Wie provoked further criticism when she professed she didnt know a rule against hitting moss during her backswing in a bunker at the Weetabix ' she was penalized two strokes ' and took another public-relations hit when she fired caddie Greg Johnson after her T-26 finish at the same tournament. Actually, she didnt personally deliver the news ' that was done by then-agent Ross Berlin. But the action further alienated many in the golfing public.
 
Despite her misses while playing with the men, Wie says she doesnt plan to quit the considerable challenge. She will keep on doggedly pushing ahead until she finally cracks through.
 
I never get discouraged, she says. It's not like it's a really easy thing to do, to make a cut on the PGA TOUR. If you think about it, every week, half the field is gone after the cut. I mean, the cut isn't like out of 144 players, 100 make it - only like 70 and ties make it. It's a really hard thing to do, and I feel like it's just really fun for me to play in these kinds of events.
 
I think it's a bigger deal for everyone else. Obviously I would love to make the cut. I would love to make the top 20. But I'm not really going to rush it. I realize it's not the easiest thing in the world for a 16-year-old girl to make the cut. I have to get stronger, I know where I have to get better at, and it's going to happen. I know it's in me, but Ive just going to play hole-by-hole and not really think about the cut.
 
Of course, the pressure continues to mount at each traditionally male event to advance to weekend play. But that, says Wie, is not the reason why she wants to make cuts. She doesnt want to advance just so she can become one of the first of her gender (along with Babe Zaharias) to achieve such a lofty honor on the PGA TOUR.
 
Michelle Wie
One of the lasting images of '06 is Wie being taken by ambulance from the John Deere Classic.
I want to make cuts because it's an achievement and it's a goal of mine. I'm not out here to justify anything. ... I feel like I don't really feel any extra pressure just because I'm a girl out here, she says.
 
One point that is often missed by her critics is that Wie is allowed to play in only six LPGA events a year as a non-member. Additionally, she is allowed to play in the U.S. Womens Open and the Womens British. Once she has played those, she HAS to play in mens events if she wants to keep active. But she says that is a rule that she is perfectly happy to abide by.
 
I would love to play one or two more events, she said. But unfortunately they (the LPGA) have the restriction and I'm very happy with the tournaments that I'm playing in.
 
I think that since I'm only playing a restricted number of LPGA events, it really opens up my schedule to play internationally and to play in more men's events - which I think is fabulous for me because I really enjoy playing internationally and playing on the PGA TOUR, playing on the Asian Tour, playing on the European Tour. It just brings so much excitement to my life that I really like it and I really like having the diversity.
 
And maybe the restriction of just being able to play in eight womens events has another side ' maybe its to the advantage of a high-school senior who just turned 17 October 11.
 
I think that having to balance school and golf is very important to me, because truth be told, I don't think I can really handle going out every single week and playing every single week. I like having the social life. I like having to get away from golf and just going to school and just being myself and just being 16 or 17 or 18.
 
I like having the dual life, so I'm very happy that school is still going to be a part of my life and that golf is still a part of my life, because they're both very important to me. And I feel like I have a good balance between the number of tournaments that I play and the amount of time that I spend in school.
 
So, she will again do what she did this year ' play a mix of womens and mens tournaments, and do it in spite of the multitudes who criticize her.
 
I think what Im doing might be right, might be wrong, she said, but its what I want to do right now, and it makes me happy. So I intend to keep on doing it.
 
Going into next year, this teen-ager surely will be a marked woman ' er, girl. She is simply a kid, a senior at a Honolulu high school, but she is so much more. Shes 6-feet-1, shes intelligent and she has a wonderful talent for playing golf.
 
I don't like being normal. I mean, people called me queer, but I like it, Wie said with a laugh.
 
I feel like I'm really normal when I'm at school. I'm normal on the golf course. It's hard to say what normal really is, you know. What is normal? I'm not really sure what that actually means. But I feel like God gave me a special talent, and I intend to use it. You know, when I'm at school, I'm me.
 
And, she is revising a lot of peoples opinions. Golf, from here on out, may not be just a gentlemens game.
 
Come on - I mean, a gentlemen's game? she said. It's just such an old mentality, and it's for anyone. It's really a people's game.
 
Related Links:
  • Michelle Wie Bio
  • Michelle Wie Photo Gallery
  • Reviewing 2006; Previewing 2007
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    USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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    Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

    Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

    So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

    He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

    So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

    “I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

    While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

    There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

    “I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

    That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

    Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

    “It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

    After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

    But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

    No pressure.

    “It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”