Wie keeps good times rolling into college grounds

By Randall MellApril 21, 2014, 1:45 pm

Michelle Wie couldn’t have landed in a better place to rebound from her loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Returning to her Hawaiian home this past week, with an entire state eager to embrace her, she responded with some of the most brilliant golf of her career, coming from four shots behind in the final round Saturday to win the Lotte Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club, the course she grew up playing.

“I definitely cried a little bit last night,” Wie said on Sunday in a teleconference. “It truly was a dream come true to win my first tournament on U.S. soil in my hometown, with all my friends and family watching.”

And now Wie, 24, couldn’t land in a better place to follow up her first win in nearly four years. Wie heads to San Francisco this week to play in the Swinging Skirts Invitational at Lake Merced Golf Club. She’s returning to the Bay Area for the first time since she graduated from Stanford two years ago.

“I haven’t been back to Stanford since I graduated,” Wie said. “Hopefully, I’ll have time to visit.”

Wie is planning to have dinner on Monday night in San Francisco with some of the friends she made while at Stanford. She still raves about her time there, at how happy she was and how much she grew up.

“I definitely miss school,” Wie said. “I’d like to go back to school at some point - not now, obviously.”

"Feherty" visits Michelle Wie at Stanford

Going to Stanford and getting a degree was a childhood dream of Wie’s. Suddenly, so many other dreams are coming back into focus. With her resurgence this year, she’s regaining form that makes her look as if she will become a considerable threat for some of the top prizes in the women’s game this year.

“I have dreams, long-term goals,” Wie said.

Good luck getting them out of her. She’s smartly sticking to the mantra that’s working so well for her this year. She keeps saying she just wants to be more consistent. She knows doing so will bring larger goals into play. It’s working like a charm.

Wie heads to San Francisco first in LPGA money winnings ($616,555), first in scoring (69.57), first in hitting greens in regulation (81 percent) and first in rounds under par (25).

“I’m really in a good place with my swing right now,” Wie said.

Winning Saturday in Hawaii, Wie formidably dissected Ko Olina Golf Club in difficult winds. She split the middle of so many fairways with that low, screaming stinger 3-wood of hers. She hit 10 of 14 fairways in the final round. She hit 15 greens in regulation, and she needed just 28 putts.

“Michelle had everything under control,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “She really has all her ducks in a row now. She’s just going to get better and better and really fulfill her star potential, I think.”

It isn’t just the crispness of ball striking that has Leadbetter so excited about Wie’s game. It’s what he feels radiating out of her heart again.

“She’s in love with the game again,” Leadbetter said. “Her whole attitude’s changed, tremendously.”

After graduating from Stanford, Wie was expected to elevate her game with her focus no longer divided. She didn’t. In fact, she slumped. In 2012, she missed the cut 10 times in the 16 events she played where there were cuts. She missed five cuts in a row.

Wie said at Kraft Nabisco that her frustration mounted seeing no rewards for all the hard work she was putting into her game. There was no fun in that.

“It was sad,” Leadbetter said. “She was working hard, putting in more hours on the range, and nothing was happening. She was desperately trying to make something happen. She was forcing things. Once you start losing confidence, it’s hard.”

Leadbetter said he saw the frustrations choking Wie’s love of the game. While Wie’s game showed signs of rebounding in 2013, Leadbetter sensed a weariness in her. At year’s end, he told her to take five weeks off without touching a club. She went home to Hawaii feeling funny because she didn’t pack a usual staple on all her trips.

“I didn’t bring my clubs home,” Wie said. “It was strange. I kind of had some anxiety about it.”

Wie said she worked out hard during her five weeks away from golf, did a lot of yoga and hiked a lot. When she returned to Florida to see Leadbetter for a preseason boot camp before starting this year, she was revitalized. They picked up with changes that were working late in the ’13 season.

Leadbetter said he saw a spark returning to Wie’s game at the Solheim Cup late last summer. He saw all the pieces of her revitalized game coming together in her run at the Kraft Nabisco two weeks ago. He really saw it in her final-round charge in her victory at the Lotte Championship.

“It was great to see her so full of confidence,” Leadbetter said. “She was just beaming.”

Leadbetter said people never understood how the injuries Wie has endured through the years hurt her game. They changed her swing. Wie broke three bones in her left wrist in ’07 in a fall. Leadbetter had to rebuild her swing after that.

“I don’t think there’s been enough said about how many injuries she’s had and how they hurt her golf swing,” said four-time major championship winner Meg Mallon, who captained Wie in the Solheim Cup last summer. “She had to revamp her swing because she couldn’t bend her wrists very much.”

Wie tried to play through a severely sprained ankle in 2009. She tried to play through a bulging disc in her back late in 2010

Through all these injuries, there were emotional injuries, too. Wie, her parents and her managers made mistakes. There was disrespect withdrawing from Annika Sorenstam’s tournament in the middle of a round in ’07, with Wie citing injury when it appeared she was going to fail to shoot better than 88, a high score that would have disqualified her from playing in an LPGA event for a year. The next day, she was seen hitting balls at the site of the following week’s LPGA event.

With other questionable decisions, there came unrelenting criticism that Wie was entitled and over-hyped, that she was an underachieving failure who would never fulfill the promise projected for her.

“You have to have a thick skin to endure the kind of negativity that’s been directed at Michelle, and the negative things that continue to be said about her,” said Hall of Famer Beth Daniel, who captained Wie on the ’09 U.S. Solheim Cup team. “The criticism really hasn’t stopped. Yes, she won this week, but if she goes out and doesn’t play well next week, there will be more negativity. I think the expectations are so high for her, and it hurts when there’s criticism because of it.

“I really think that Michelle has one of the most positive attitudes in the game. I think that is what gets her through all of this.”

Wie was asked if her win Saturday made her to want to strike back at all the critics who doubted she’d ever win again.

“No,” she said. “People are entitled to opinions. I have opinions about people myself. I’m just so happy to win my first tournament on American soil in my hometown. I’m just happy about that, and I’m grateful. All the ups and downs I’ve been through, especially the downs, have really made me who I am today. It’s made me grateful. Without the downs, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today.”

So happy, Wie cried when Saturday’s win fully sank in.

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With eye on Masters, Howell wins Match Play group

By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2018, 8:15 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Charles Howell III appears to have solved his match play mystery, advancing out of pool play for the second consecutive year after failing to play the weekend his first eight trips to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

At 65th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Howell needs to advance to Sunday’s final four to move into the top 50 in the world and earn an invitation to the Masters, which is always a primary goal for the Augusta, Ga., native.

“Knowing that I need a big week here to get through, obviously, it's massive in match play,” said Howell, who will face Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the first stage of knockout play on Saturday. “Kiradech is an awesome player. I feel like I'm the underdog, and nothing to lose, I like that.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Howell, who began the week as the 59th-seeded player, was unbeaten in pool play, defeating Phil Mickelson on Day 1 and securing his spot in the weekend with a 2-and-1 victory over Satoshi Kodaira on Friday.

Although Saturday’s matches may have a qualifying feel for Howell, who last played the Masters in 2012, he’s also in the field for next week’s Houston Open and could earn a spot at Augusta National with a victory there.

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McIlroy to rest, play Augusta after early exit at Match Play

By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2018, 7:02 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – For the second consecutive year, Rory McIlroy failed to advance out of pool play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but there was a silver lining for last week’s champion.

McIlroy, who lost on Friday, 5 and 3, to Brian Harman, said he didn’t have much time to recharge following his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and having the weekend off will give him a chance to prepare for what promises to be an intense build up to this year’s Masters.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The Northern Irishman will travel to Augusta National on Wednesday for what he said will be a 54- to 72-hole, two-day practice session.

“Me and [caddie Harry Diamond] are going up, two members are hosting us, we're going to have a couple of social runs Wednesday and Thursday,” McIlroy said. “I’ll rest up a little bit, recharge the batteries, get into the gym. Sort of have a good week training and a good practice week. And just get myself ready for Augusta.”

McIlroy is listed among the favorites at the Masters, where he could complete the career Grand Slam if he were to win.

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 6:35 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

(Note: Group winners are highlighted; * equals won in playoff)

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-2-0 (2) J. Thomas: 3-0-0 (3) J. Rahm: 0-2-1 (4) J. Spieth: 2-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 1-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 2-1-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat: 3-0-0 (19) P. Reed: 2-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 1-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 1-2-0 (43) C. Reavie: 1-1-1 (34) H. Li: 0-2-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-1-0
(60) L. List: 0-3-0 (63) K. Bradley: 0-1-2 (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-2-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-1-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 1-2-0 (7) S. Garcia: 3-0-0 (8) J. Day: 1-1-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 1-1-0
(18) B. Harman: 2-0-1 (20) X. Schauffele: 2-1-0 (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-1-0
(46) C. Smith: 2-0-0 (44) J. Vegas: 0-2-1 (41) D. Frittelli: 1-2-0 (42) J. Dufner: 1-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-2-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 2-1-0 (62) S. Sharma: 0-3-0 (56) J. Hahn: 1-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 1-1-0 (10) P. Casey: 2-1-0 (11) M. Leishman: 0-2-1 (12) T. Hatton: 2-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-2-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick: 1-2-0 (23) B. Grace: 1-1-1 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-2-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-1-0 (45) K. Stanley: 2-1-0 (35) B. Watson: 2-0-1 (36) B. Steele: 1-1-0
(58) I. Poulter: 2-0-0 (51) R. Henley: 1-2-0 (64) J. Suri: 1-1-1 (55) A. Levy: 1-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 2-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 2-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-1 (16) M. Kuchar: 1-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 2-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello: 1-2-0 (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-1 (27) R. Fisher: 1-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-2-0 (40) S. Kodaira: 0-3-0 (37) W. Simpson: 1-0-1 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-1-0
(61) K. Na: 0-2-0 (59) C. Howell III: 3-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 1-0-1 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-1-1
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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 3

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 5:44 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 3 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play. Click here for Day 2 match results:

Group 1: Dustin Johnson (1) vs. Kevin Kisner (32)

Group 1: Adam Hadwin (38) vs. Bernd Wiesberger (52)

Group 2: Justin Thomas (2) def. Francesco Molinari (21), 7 and 5: Looking like the man to beat, Thomas put Molinari in an early 3-down hole and kept applying pressure, putting him away with seven birdies in one of the most lopsided results of the week – and in a battle of two unbeatens. Thomas can become world No. 1 with a victory this week.

Group 2: Patton Kizzire (48) def. Luke List (60), 4 and 2: One down through seven holes, Kizzire won four consecutive holes around the turn and coasted to his first win of the week.

Group winner: Justin Thomas

Group 3: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Jon Rahm, 4 and 3: Unbeaten through two days, Aphibarnrat put the hammer down on Rahm, last year’s finalist. Barnrat needed only three birdies to secure the group win, while Rahm dropped to 0-2-1 for the week.

Group 3: Chez Reavie (43) vs. Keegan Bradley (63), halved: With the group already decided as they played the closing stretch, Bradley coughed up a late lead for the third consecutive round, halving the match on 18 and finishing the week with a 0-1-2 record that could (and should) have been so much better.  

Group winner: Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Group 4: Jordan Spieth (4) vs. Patrick Reed (19)

Group 4: Haotong Li (34) vs. Charl Schwartzel (49)

Group 5: Hideki Matsuyama (5) vs. Patrick Cantlay (30)

Group 5: Cameron Smith (46) vs. Yusaku Miyazato (53)

Group 6: Brian Harman (18) def. Rory McIlroy (6), 5 and 3: Harman took advantage of McIlroy’s missed putts and uncharacteristic mistakes to build a 3-up advantage on the front nine, then cruised to a lopsided victory. At 2-0-1, Harman wins the group, while McIlroy can begin his prep for Augusta.

Group 6: Jhonattan Vegas (44) vs. Peter Uihlein (57) def. Jhonattan Vegas (44), 4 and 3: Even though Uihlein won the first two holes on his way to routing Vegas, it wasn’t enough for the former U.S. Amateur champion to advance. He finished the week 2-1.

Group winner: Brian Harman

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) def. Xander Schauffele (20), 3 and 1: Two down with seven to play in this battle of unbeatens, Garcia birdied the 12th and 13th holes to square the match, then pulled ahead with a pair of birdies on 15 and 16 and a conceded birdie on 17, after Schauffele tugged his tee shot into the hazard.

Group 7: Dylan Frittelli (41) def. Shubhankar Sharma (62), 1 up: In a match with nothing at stake but a little extra cash and some world-ranking points, Frittelli shot 4 under and held off Sharma throughout to earn his first point of the week.

Group winner: Sergio Garcia

Group 8: Jason Day (8) vs. Louis Oosthuizen (25)

Group 8: Jason Dufner (42) vs. James Hahn (56)

Group 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9) vs. Daniel Berger (26)

Group 9: Kevin Chappell (33) vs. Ian Poulter (58)

Group 10: Matthew Fitzpatrick (31) def. Paul Casey (10), 3 and 2: After looking unstoppable over the first two days of pool play, Casey never led against his fellow Englishman, going 3 down after five holes. It was Fitzpatrick’s first point of the week, and Casey lost on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.

Group 10: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Russell Henley (51), 1 up: Stanley flipped an early 2-down deficit and rolled in a 10-footer birdie putt on the final hole to beat Henley and earn a full point to force the sudden-death playoff with Casey. On the second playoff hole, Stanley poured in a 5-footer for birdie to advance.

Group winner: Kyle Stanley

Group 11: Marc Leishman (11) vs. Branden Grace (23), halved: Already eliminated, Leishman kept Grace from reaching the pool-play playoff by never trailing in the match. Though the South African holed a 25-footer on 17 to extend it, both players halved the 18th hole with birdies, including a 6-footer from Leishman, to earn a half-point.

Group 11: Bubba Watson (35) vs. Julian Suri (64), halved: Needing just a half-point to advance, but two down with two to go, Bubba stuffed his tee shot on 17, then hit his driver pin-high on the home hole. After Suri couldn’t get up-and-down for birdie, Watson sank his 8-footer for the halve. It's the second consecutive year in which Watson has won his group.

Group winner: Bubba Watson

Group 12: Charley Hoffman (22) def. Tyrrell Hatton (12), 3 and 2: After playing poorly for the first two days, Hoffman finally found his form against the previously unbeaten Hatton, making five birdies en route to a stress-free victory.

Group 12: Brendan Steele (36) vs. Alexander Levy (55)

Group 13: Alex Noren (13) vs. Tony Finau (29)

Group 13: Thomas Pieters (39) vs. Kevin Na (61)

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) def. Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), 1 up: Mickelson needed help to advance, but he took care of Cabrera Bello, making birdie on the last two holes to edge the Spaniard. The group was already decided, however, with Howell closing out his match while the other group played the 18th hole.

Group 14: Charles Howell III (59) def. Satoshi Kodaira (40), 2 and 1: Needing just a halve to advance, Howell won the 14th and 16th holes with par to gain a 2-up advantage and complete a perfect week in pool play. It’s the second year in a row that Howell has won his group.

Group winner: Charles Howell III

Group 15: Gary Woodland (24) def. Pat Perez, 1 up: Though the group was already decided, Woodland surrendered a 2-up lead but made a birdie when it mattered most, on the final green, to secure his first full point of the week.

Group 15: Si Woo Kim (50) def. Webb Simpson (37), 2 up: Kim led 4 up after seven holes, but he played only 2 under the rest of the way and, fortunately for him, ran out of holes. He won the group with 2 ½ points.  

Group winner: Si Woo Kim

Group 16: Matt Kuchar (16) vs. Ross Fisher (27)

Group 16: Yuta Ikeda (47) vs. Zach Johnson (54)