Wie battling injuries, new swing as she defends Open

By Randall MellJuly 7, 2015, 12:30 pm

Michelle Wie can tell you a lot about the Harton S. Semple Trophy that you didn’t know.

She can tell you the lid on the trophy makes a snappy party hat.

She can tell you sangria tastes better when it’s served from the trophy.

“Kind of used it as a punch bowl,” Wie said.

She can also tell you the trophy holds 21½ beers.

If the U.S. Women’s Open trophy could talk, it could tell some colorful stories about its year with Wie, who claimed the trophy winning the championship at Pinehurst. The trophy could tell you about her victory party, about how Wie’s upside-down twerking as a victory dance became a viral YouTube hit.

“That trophy had a lot of fun,” Wie told GolfChannel.com as she prepares to defend her title this week at the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club, 80 miles west of Philadelphia.

Wie, 25, eagerly shared her delight as the trophy’s winner with friends and supporters. She also honored it with a “prime spot” in her home in Jupiter, Fla. She set it up on a coffee table where she could see it as much as possible.

“It was a constant reminder to me every time I walked past it,” Wie said.

Her swing coach, David Leadbetter, can tell you exactly what the trophy reminded Wie of, because he knew what hoisting it for the first time meant to her as he watched the trophy presentation on the 18th green at Pinehurst.


Photos: Images from the 2014 U.S. Women's Open

“I’ll always remember how happy she looked with the trophy,” Leadbetter said. “I’ll remember the joy, the great smile, how ecstatic she was. It was like she was able to actually hold something in her hands that showed, ‘Hey, I’m not just a child prodigy. All the hard work, all the sacrifices, all the down times, they were all worth it.’ It was heartwarming seeing that.”

Wie’s victories last year at the Lotte Championship in her Hawaiian home and at the U.S. Women’s Open were transforming. She rewrote her story. She went from cautionary tale, the can’t-miss kid struggling to live up to all her promise, to a completely different narrative. Suddenly, she was an inspirational tale of perseverance. She was the broken player who put herself back together. She won her first major championship after multiple injuries, swoons, slumps and unrelenting criticism made it look like she would never win one.

Wie emerged early last year playing the best golf of her life.

Her run from the Kraft Nabisco, where she lost to Lexi Thompson in a final-round duel in the year’s first major, through her U.S. Women’s Open victory, held a new kind of promise. Wie racked up eight top-10 finishes over nine starts that included two victories, a second and two third-place finishes.

Wie left Pinehurst looking capable of becoming the best player in the women’s game. With her driver working, with her putting better than ever, she was a force in the first two majors of the year.

“It’s definitely the most consistent I’ve ever played,” Wie said. “And that was my goal at the beginning of the year, to be consistent.”

Wie arrives at Lancaster Country Club this week with all that momentum lost. She is far from the splendid form she took into last year’s U.S. Women’s Open. She has missed the cut or withdrawn from three of her last four starts. She doesn’t have a top-10 finish this year.

Once more, Wie looks like a broken player trying to put herself back together again.

“It’s definitely been frustrating,” Wie said. “There have been things I haven’t been able to control this year, a series of unfortunate events. But at the same time, they’re things that make me a stronger person, that make me believe harder and work harder.”

Wie started this year grinding through the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic with what she thought was the flu. It turned out to be strep throat, which then morphed into a sinus infection during the Asian swing.

Now, she’s rebounding from a hip injury that forced her into an emergency overhaul of her swing.

“It’s been frustrating for everybody,” Leadbetter said. “We looked at last year as a springboard to some really great stuff, but it hasn’t happened. It’s been a sort of ho-hum year, nothing really exciting going on. But, I think she’s handling it all really well. She just needs to find a little spark to get her going. If anyone can find it, it’s Michelle.”

Over the last six weeks, Leadbetter and trainer David Donatucci have been scrambling to help Wie rebuild her body and swing. She’s playing with a new, significantly narrower stance designed to alleviate stress on her left hip, knee and ankle.

“I know some people think she’s making too much of it, but she really was hurt,” Leadbetter said. “When you have pain, when your body is in a state of disrepair, it’s difficult to fight your way through it. The golf swing is tough enough when the body’s completely healthy.”

Wie withdrew after the first round of the Kingsmill Championship in the middle of May with pain in her left hip. It was diagnosed as bursitis, an inflammation of the joint, a malady caused by wear and tear over time.

Wie teed it up in her next start at the ShopRite Classic two weeks later with the new, narrower stance.

“The stance is a little different, the movement is a little different and the swing plane is a lot better,” Donatucci said. “She was so wide in the path, the only thing her body could really do is move left, and move left violently.”

At 6 feet, with her long arms and legs, Wie was generating a lot of power with a compact swing. She won the U.S. Women’s Open winding powerfully around hips that barely seemed to rotate on the backswing.

“Although in many respects that swing was pretty sound mechanically, it was very short and very tight and very wound up,” Leadbetter said. “It was creating a lot of stress on her joints. We had to make a compromise. She’s gone back to a narrower stance, to really encourage more of a rotation in the swing, which has gotten the swing a little longer.”

Wie’s swing is looking more like it did when she was a teen phenom, but it’s not quite the same. Leadbetter says Wie’s stance at its widest now is a foot more narrow than it was last year.

“That’s quite substantial,” he said.

Donatucci said all the power Wie generated with her tightly wound swing raced into her left side in a jarring finish. There were signs of trouble even at the U.S. Women’s Open last year, when Wie wore supportive tape around her left knee. Since Kingsmill, she has been wearing tape and a brace on her left ankle.

“She was utilizing her left knee, her left ankle and the outside of her hip to slow down the swing speed,” Donatucci said. “We’re hoping this narrowing of the stance, where she can rotate the hips a lot better, will allow the back of the hip, the butt and the glutes to really be able to absorb the majority of that speed, to help slow her down and decrease the pounding and pressure that’s occurring on the outside of that hip.”

Donatucci said the new swing should help keep Wie from snapping and hyper extending her left knee in her finish.

“I used to be so flexible,” Wie said. “But I’m not as limber as I was when I was 16. This is helping me relax my hips, move them better. When I do it right, and relax my hips, I can swing pretty much pain free.”

Wie has had a cortisone shot and two platelet-rich-plasma injections over the last month or so getting herself ready to defend her title. She has monitored her diet, reducing foods that exacerbate inflammation.

“The pain’s definitely getting better,” Wie said. “I’ve been feeling better and better every week, and I’m excited to play.”

The real challenge has been overhauling Wie’s swing with practice time limited by the injury, but Wie has one advantage other players don’t this week. She has the memory of last year’s U.S. Women’s Open victory emboldening her. Specifically, she has the memory of last year’s late bounce back, when she went from looking as if she were blowing the Open with a double bogey at the 16th hole in the final round to securing the title with a terrific birdie at the 17th.

Those two holes were a perfect microcosm of Wie’s entire career.

“What happened at the 16th and 17th, those are memories I use even to this day, to remind myself how to handle situations,” Wie said. “Keep calm, always have faith, don’t think too hard in the future. I definitely use those memories as inspiration and motivation. It gives me confidence.”

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.

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USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.

After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

“When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

“They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”

By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

“I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

“They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”

But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

“To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

“I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”

But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

“It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.

@bubbawatson on Instagram

Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

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Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).