Quick Round with David Leadbetter

By Randall MellNovember 21, 2009, 5:05 am
David Leadbetter has been working with Michelle Wie practically since she began making national news as a 12-year-old.

They’ve been through a lot together, from her burst onto the national scene as a young phenom with a dream of playing against PGA Tour pros through her swoon after a pair of wrist injuries three seasons ago to her breakthrough LPGA victory this year.

Senior writer Randall Mell connected with Leadbetter for a quick round earlier this week, before Wie’s ankle injuries worsened and caused her withdrawal from the LPGA Tour Championship on Thursday:

David Leadbetter
David Leadbetter has been coaching Michelle Wie since she was 12. (Getty Images)
What was your reaction to Michelle’s breakthrough victory last weekend and what it means to women’s golf?

I’ve always believed in her. I knew the talent she had and that it was just a matter of time. I think it’s a great thing for the LPGA. If players are smart, they realize she’s a special talent who ultimately can really help them, in Tiger-like fashion. The LPGA needs a jump start. It’s obviously had some issues losing tournaments and with the economy and so on, and she can certainly help stimulate things. When she is playing well there is nobody in the women’s game who draws crowds and creates interest like she does, regardless. There are a tremendous number of good players, but she is a story, and she’s been a story for a long while for the right reasons and the wrong reasons, nevertheless a story.

Did you feel the relief she felt finally winning?

I felt `thank goodness.’ It’s been a huge, huge cross to bear for her. She’s had so much thrown at her. There are so many experts out there who think they know how to do it. Let’s face it, she’s made mistakes, who hasn’t? She went about it a little differently. You hear about all the parental control, but part of it is cultural. They are a very close-knit family. They have their little deals as most families do, but Michelle is her own person. She is the one who decided she wanted to go to college and that she wanted to play PGA Tour events. She was encouraged, but she is very strong-minded, very strong-willed. I knew the victory was going to come, it was just a matter of when. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be this year with the injury.

The left ankle injury clearly bothered her at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, but it didn’t stop her.

I think the expectations weren’t as high because of the injury. We did some stuff on Internet before she left, and (her swing) wasn’t looking very good. She made an adjustment in her stance to try to alleviate the pain in her foot. She opened her foot way up, which was causing some problems. I said, 'Listen, I know you have to live through this pain, but you have to get this foot squared up.’ She did that. She was driving the ball well there. She said she was more comfortable with the driver last week than she’s been in a long time.

The ankle injury must have put you on guard, because you saw how detrimental her wrist injuries were to her swing in 2007. You were outspoken about how you thought she was coming back too quickly. In fact, you haven’t been afraid to tell Michelle or her parents things they might not want to hear.

I haven’t always agreed with all their decisions, and I’ve been vocal about that. I’ve been around, and I’ve seen what helps create success and what helps create problems. I’d be the first to admit they did some things that in retrospect they wouldn’t do if they had to do it over again, like not playing in so many men’s events. I think they respect me enough that I can say things. I’m close to them and part of the inner circle.

Her last year of high school (in 2006), she went over to play the European Masters (on the men’s European Tour), and I think she finished dead last. She was fatigued, swinging out of her shoes, her wrists were already giving her some issues, some tendinitis. Then she went out and played in the 84 Lumber Classic the next week (and missed the cut by 13 shots) on the longest course of the year. Now, she’s just played two events against men, she’s very fatigued, but her work ethic comes into it. She’s deciding she’s going to work this out, and then she breaks her wrist training. It wasn’t rehabbed properly.

When she came back, there was just no way she should have played, but it was enthusiasm on Michelle’s part. It was her competitive spirit saying I can do this, but it was nuts. She’s a player who wants to play. It’s hard for a player to be on the sideline, it’s really hard. She wasn’t healed, she wasn’t strong, she developed some bad habits as a result and when you do that there are mental issues and you lose confidence.

How did that affect her?

She was down about her game, and she just wasn’t a happy person. She’s genuinely a very happy person who loves life and is always laughing, but she was miserable then. You can understand that.

How did she bounce back?

It’s a case where she worked her way back. She went back to ground zero so to speak. She had to rebuild her credibility, and she did that. She went through tour school.

You said her ability to get away from golf helped her bounce back. She has interest in art and fashion and as a fan of other sports.

She’s happy now. That’s important. She didn’t like golf for awhile, but golf doesn’t rule her life. She likes doing other things. To some extent, these other things are going to give her a fairly long career. The concern I have in so many young players is they are going to get burned out. That’s a concern I have for a lot of young players. There’s such a rush to get so good so young and so fast. Tiger Woods has great balance in his life. Jack Nicklaus did too. Michelle has that balance.
American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

Getty Images

McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

Getty Images

Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

Getty Images

Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.