Wie leads NW Ark.; turning potential into reality

By Will GrayJune 28, 2014, 11:15 pm

With the LPGA season reaching its midway point, Michelle Wie is already playing with house money.

Fresh off her triumph at the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie could call it quits tomorrow and still look back on 2014 as a career year: two wins, including her first major title, nine top-10 finishes and only two starts all year yielding less than a top-15 result.

Based on her play this week at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, though, she shows no signs of slowing down.

Wie shot a second consecutive 66 Saturday at Pinnacle Country Club, and at 10 under she will take a two-shot advantage into the final day of the 54-hole event, with some second-round play still to complete. She is the hottest player in the LPGA right now, with five top-three finishes in her last eight starts, eyeing her second win in as many weeks.



“It’s kind of my goal for the entire year to be consistent,” Wie said after carding six birdies against one bogey in the second round. “That’s my main goal, to be consistent for the entire year and just try and get better every week. I feel like I’ve been achieving it so far, and I just want to keep improving.”

Consistency has been a strong suit for Wie, who picked up right where she left off at Pinehurst despite a post-victory media circuit that took her to New York for two days in advance of this week’s event. The whirlwind travel may be taking a toll on the 24-year-old, but it’s not hampering her on-course performance.

“I definitely am tired,” said Wie, who admitted she was running on fumes. “I just want to kind of get through tomorrow.”

In a battle of fatigue versus confidence, the latter often wins, as has been the case this week for Wie. She has received incremental boosts of confidence throughout the year: first with her runner-up finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, then with her win at the Lotte LPGA Championship in her native Hawaii, then finally with last week’s breakthrough at Pinehurst.

It’s a far cry from the player who missed the cut in Arkansas a year ago and failed to complete her second round at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open the following week, or the one who was seen as a surprise captain’s pick when added to the U.S. Solheim Cup squad last August.

Those searching for the source of Wie’s turnaround need only look at two key metrics. In 2012, she ranked 119th on the LPGA in putts per GIR, while finishing 69th in GIR percentage. Last year, those figures saw modest improvement – 25th in putts per GIR and 32nd in greens hit.

This season? Wie enters this week ranked third in both categories, and likely will only improve with her performance in the Ozarks.

While the stat sheet tells much of the story, Wie’s watershed season has also been rooted in intangibles: increased poise, maturity, and most of all, confidence.

Nowhere is that self-belief more evident than on the greens, where Wie has transformed her tabletop putting stroke from the butt of jokes into an effective weapon.

“Definitely feeling a lot more confident,” she said. “Just feeling more and more comfortable with the speed and everything. It’s always a work in progress.”

Days before her U.S. Women’s Open win, Wie spoke of beginning the “second part” of her career, a strange notion for anyone in their mid-20s but a more realistic statement given how long she has been on the national stage. She’s well on her way to authoring a new chapter with her play this summer.

For years, the consensus about Wie was that she possessed the potential to blow away fields, dominate the women’s game and transform the LPGA.

Potential.

In the span of nine days, she has captured a major while facing more scrutiny than any other player in the field, then grabbed the pole position again where many would have succumbed to a post-victory letdown.

Seemingly with each passing round, Wie is turning years of pent-up potential into reality. Whether she adds to her trophy collection Sunday, it’s a trend that will likely only continue as her dream season progresses. 

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AT&T Byron Nelson purse payout: Wise a millionaire

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 12:05 pm

PGA Tour rookie Aaron Wise earned his first Tour title on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Trinity Forest:

1 Aaron Wise -23 $1,386,000
2 Marc Leishman -20 $831,600
T3 Branden Grace -19 $400,400
T3 J.J. Spaun -19 $400,400
T3 Keith Mitchell -19 $400,400
T6 Ryan Blaum -16 $257,950
T6 Kevin Na -16 $257,950
T6 Jimmy Walker -16 $257,950
T9 Adam Scott -15 $207,900
T9 Charles Howell III -15 $207,900
T9 Kevin Tway -15 $207,900
12 Brian Gay -14 $177,100
T13 Rory Sabbatini -13 $148,867
T13 Ethan Tracy -13 $148,867
T13 Matt Jones -13 $148,867
T16 Russell Knox -12 $115,500
T16 Hideki Matsuyama -12 $115,500
T16 Bronson Burgoon -12 $115,500
T16 Derek Fathauer -12 $115,500
T16 Joel Dahmen -12 $115,500
T21 Jordan Spieth -11 $80,080
T21 Billy Horschel -11 $80,080
T21 Robert Garrigus -11 $80,080
T21 Peter Uihlein -11 $80,080
T21 Martin Piller -11 $80,080
T26 Tyler Duncan -10 $55,825
T26 Anirban Lahiri -10 $55,825
T26 Parker McLachlin -10 $55,825
T26 Martin Flores -10 $55,825
T26 J.T. Poston -10 $55,825
T26 Shawn Stefani -10 $55,825
T32 Cody Gribble -9 $39,116
T32 Johnson Wagner -9 $39,116
T32 Geoff Ogilvy -9 $39,116
T32 Nick Taylor -9 $39,116
T32 C.T. Pan -9 $39,116
T32 Scott Piercy -9 $39,116
T32 Nicholas Lindheim -9 $39,116
T32 Fabian Gomez -9 $39,116
T32 Beau Hossler -9 $39,116
T32 Nate Lashley -9 $39,116
T42 Zac Blair -8 $23,184
T42 Abraham Ancer -8 $23,184
T42 Maverick McNealy -8 $23,184
T42 Denny McCarthy -8 $23,184
T42 Jonathan Byrd -8 $23,184
T42 Eric Axley -8 $23,184
T42 Sam Ryder -8 $23,184
T42 Brian Stuard -8 $23,184
T42 J.B. Holmes -8 $23,184
T42 Sung-hoon Kang -8 $23,184
T42 Andrew Putnam -8 $23,184
T53 Ben Crane -7 $17,659
T53 Steve Wheatcroft -7 $17,659
T53 Troy Merritt -7 $17,659
T53 Patrick Rodgers -7 $17,659
T53 Corey Conners -7 $17,659
T53 Robert Streb -7 $17,659
T59 Ryan Armour -6 $16,632
T59 Peter Malnati -6 $16,632
T59 Vaughn Taylor -6 $16,632
T59 Dominic Bozzelli -6 $16,632
T59 Adam Schenk -6 $16,632
T59 Hudson Swafford -6 $16,632
T59 Michael Thompson -6 $16,632
T66 Matt Atkins -5 $15,862
T66 Roberto Diaz -5 $15,862
T66 T.J. Vogel -5 $15,862
69 Sang-Moon Bae -4 $15,554
T70 Tom Lovelady -3 $15,246
T70 Cameron Percy -3 $15,246
T70 Rod Pampling -3 $15,246
73 Brian Davis -1 $14,938
74 Mark Wilson 1 $14,784
75 Robert Allenby 2 $14,630
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Howell, Uihlein qualify for U.S. Open via OWGR

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 11:02 am

Charles Howell III and Peter Uihlein both used strong play at the AT&T Byron Nelson to maintain their positions inside the top 60 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking, thereby ensuring exemptions to next month's U.S. Open.

Howell moved up three spots to No. 56 in the world thanks to a T-9 finish at Trinity Forest. He'll make his 10th career U.S. Open appearance, but just his second since 2009. Howell missed the cut at Olympic in 2012.

Uihlein finished T-21 in Dallas, which was barely enough to hold onto a top-60 spot as he actually fell two positions to No. 59. The former U.S. Amateur champ will make his third U.S. Open appearance and second in as many years.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


The drama for the final spot came down to the wire on Sunday, where Adam Scott's bid to unseat Chesson Hadley at No. 60 came up just short. Needing a solo ninth-place finish, Scott ended up in a three-way tie for ninth to begin the new week at No. 61. Hadley, who didn't play the Nelson, remained No. 60 and will make his U.S. Open debut.

Others to punch tickets to Shinnecock Hills include No. 52 Luke List, No. 53 Chez Reavie and No. 57 Dylan Frittelli. A second and final top-60 cutoff will be done based off the June 11 world rankings following the FedEx St. Jude Classic, with U.S. Open sectional qualifying conducted in England and the U.S. on June 4.

The only change among the top 10 in the rankings this week came at No. 10, where Paul Casey moved past Tommy Fleetwood despite an off week for both players. Justin Thomas remains world No. 1 for a second week, followed by Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6, with Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Casey rounding out the top 10.

Taking the week off following a T-11 finish at The Players Championship, Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 82.

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray


On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta


On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”