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Wie finally getting a grip on her game

By Randall MellMarch 14, 2018, 12:19 am

PHOENIX – Michelle Wie is golf’s version of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

She’s a puzzle as a player, even unto herself, and she’s more than OK with that.

She revels in the wonder of a life that has taken her on so many unexpected twists and turns, through so many highs and lows. She revels in how her crazy journey has helped her know herself in the most important way. She revels in knowing what she can overcome.

“I definitely don't want to go back down again,” Wie said of her myriad slumps, injuries and illnesses. “You never know what life will bring you. I just know that I can pull myself out of it. I definitely have a lot of confidence from that, just knowing from experience that I can.”

Wie arrives back on top for this week’s LPGA Founders Cup, where she will be looking to win back-to-back events after claiming the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start. It was her fifth LPGA title, her first since she won the U.S. Women’s Open four years ago.

While Wie is feeling good about her game again, she is taking nothing for granted.

“The first thing I said to my agents and everyone was, `Let's just simmer down on the expectations and the hype and everything,’” Wie said. “I've just been keeping quiet. I just want to let my game show.”

Wie was asked what her goals are for the rest of the year.

“To keep my organs in my body,’ she cracked.

That was a reference to the emergency appendectomy she underwent late last summer, a procedure that derailed some good momentum.

While Wie is taking care not to feed expectations, she won’t deny being excited about what’s possible this year.

“I always think the best is in front of me,” Wie said. “That's why I practice and work so hard. It makes me really excited for this year and the future.”

Wie is especially excited about her putting.

Once the real weakness of her game, putting is becoming a strength. She ranks eighth on the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation this season. She was 120th in putts per GIR just two seasons ago.


Photos: Michelle Wie through the years


“I've worked really hard on my putting,” Wie said. “It feels good that it's paying off.

“It definitely affects the rest of the game. If you feel comfortable with your putting, it helps you be more aggressive with your irons. I think it takes a little pressure off your irons, knowing that even if you don't stick it in 3 feet, you have a good chance of making it. It definitely takes the pressure off your driver.”

Wie’s stats are up across the board this year, with the improved putting and a dependable fade making her dangerous again. It’s early, but she is fourth in scoring average (69.0), 10th in greens in regulation and 16th in driving distance.

The HSBC Women’s World Championship came down to Wie’s putting. She broke a four-way tie for the lead with a 36-foot birdie putt at her last hole. She called it the best putt of her life.

“I think being confident with your putter, it brings a different mindset into the game,” Wie said.

David Leadbetter, Wie’s coach, sees that.

“Her putting is filtering into everything else,” Leadbetter said.

Wie’s putting is a classic example of the riddle/mystery/enigma of her game, and how she embraces it.

A year ago, Wie revamped her putting stroke yet again, moving farther away from that awkward table-top putting stroke she once used. While she moved into a more classic upright stance, her new stroke had its classic Wie idiosyncrasies. She rotated from a conventional grip to claw grip to left-hand low, not just within a single round, but sometimes on a single green.

At the HSBC Women’s World Championship two weeks ago, Wie was down to just two grips, rotating from conventional to left-hand low. She said she doesn’t know what grip she’s going to use until she’s over the putt. It’s all about what feels right.

“It just goes by her moods,” Leadbetter said. “There’s no rhyme or reason. Even if you asked her, she wouldn’t be able to tell you why she does it.”

Wie was asked Tuesday what plan she had for gripping the club this week.

“I really can’t say what I’m going to do,” Wie said. “I can’t promise anything. I say something in a press conference, and I do something else. I’m just going to say, `I don’t know.’ We’ll see.”

Her approach defies convention, even logic. There would seem to be so much uncertainty in rotating grips, that it would invite doubts to flood the brain.

That’s not how it’s working for her, though. It’s just the opposite. She is so confident with this new style and stroke.

Leadbetter says while her grip changes, her setup doesn’t anymore. While Wie’s tinkering can be maddening to Leadbetter, he says she is remarkably consistent with the way she makes the stroke, no matter the grip.

“The setup is the same, the posture is the same,” Leadbetter said. “It’s just a matter of her feeling comfortable with her hands.”

Leadbetter said Wie made a conscious effort to focus more on feel in the offseason. He put her through a series of performance drills to help her focus on that.

“I think, essentially, over the years, she has been too mechanical with the putting,” Leadbetter said. “I think the fact she is getting a little less technical and more feel oriented is a really good thing. I’m happy she’s getting into these performance drills, rather than trying to make a perfect strike all the time.”

Wie isn’t sure what this week will bring, but she can’t wait to find out.

“Just because I won last week doesn't guarantee I'll play well this week,” she said. “I am just going to go with the mindset that it’s a fresh start, beginning of the West Coast swing, a swing that I really do love. Just going to have fun out there, try to post some low scores, and just stay healthy.”

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

 

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.