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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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Watching Koepka, Fleetwood knew he was one shot short

By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:33 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In the end, even a record-tying performance wasn’t enough for Tommy Fleetwood at the U.S. Open.

Fleetwood started the final round at Shinnecock Hills six shots off the pace, but he quickly moved up the board with a run of four birdies over his first seven holes. He added four more in a row on Nos. 12-15, and he had a 9-footer for birdie on No. 18 to become the first player to ever shoot a 62 in the U.S. Open.

He missed, and that proved to be the difference – for both the record and the tournament.

Fleetwood waited around in player hospitality for the next three hours while the leaders finished, alternating between watching the golf (with sandwich in hand) and playing with his newborn son, Frankie. He was on the chipping green when Brooks Koepka completed play at 1-over 281, successfully defending his title and finishing one shot ahead of Fleetwood.

“Brooks kept giving me like a little bit of hope, and then he’d hole a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I always just had that feeling that I was one shy, so I never really got massively, massively excited.”


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This was the first year the U.S. Open would have gone to a two-hole, aggregate playoff, so Fleetwood needed to stay loose for a possible overtime that in previous years would have instead been an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He emerged from the locker room and headed to the range to warm up after Koepka birdied No. 16 to take a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

“I just thought, 'I should really go up, because you never know,'” Fleetwood said. “I mean, the worst thing that could happen is if something did happen and I wasn’t really ready, so it’s better warming up with that intention.”

The solo runner-up is a career-best major finish for Fleetwood, who also finished fourth last year at Erin Hills. He now shares a piece of tournament history, becoming just the sixth player to shoot a 63, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh and Justin Thomas.

And after torching a demanding layout to the tune of eight birdies, he insisted he won’t dwell much on the final putt that got away – even though Koepka’s closing bogey meant that it ultimately made the difference.

“The putt on 18, I actually wanted more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing for the tournament,” Fleetwood said. “Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week, and I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”

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DJ and more congratulate Koepka on social media

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2018, 11:31 pm

Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills. Dustin Johnson, his friend and playing competitor on Sunday, was quick to congratulate Koepka. And he wasn't alone.






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Firefighter Parziale ties for low am with dad on bag

By Associated PressJune 17, 2018, 11:07 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Leaning on his club, Matt Parziale crossed one leg over the other and placed the free hand on his hip. His caddie mirrored his position and used Parziale's bag as his source of support. The two looked almost identical, just one older than the other.

Being related will do that.

Parziale's dad, Vic Parziale, has been with his son throughout his entire U.S. Open journey, starting Monday and ending Father's Day. Matt finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.

''We do stand alike out there,'' Vic said. ''It's funny.''

Said Matt: ''I don't like it, but that's how life goes.''

He's kidding. The idea of turning into his dad doesn't scare him.

''He's the best guy I know,'' Matt said. ''If I can be half that good, I'll be doing all right.''


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It's a classic like father, like son relationship.

Matt, 31, is a full-time firefighter back home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Vic retired from the same station last year after 32 years.

The two, obviously, also share a love for golf.

''He stinks now,'' Matt said. ''I'd have to play pretty bad to let him win. He used to be much better than he is now.''

Matt says he was 14 the first time he beat his dad. Vic says his son was 15. Either way, once Matt beat Vic's 73 by a stroke as a teenager, it was game over.

Vic never beat his son again.

''Golf skipped a generation for sure,'' Vic said. ''Because I don't play like him.''

As the first mid-amateur to make a cut at the U.S. Open in 15 years, Matt's second round was his best, carding a 73 with a birdie on No. 18 that guaranteed him a spot in the final rounds.

On the last day, Matt shot a 75 to end up at 296, the same mark fellow amateur Luis Gagne scored. Will Grimmer was the only other amateur to make the cut, and he finished 23 over at 303. The tournament started with 20 amateurs.

This was Matt's first U.S. Open. He played at the Masters earlier this year, but did not advance after two rounds. Vic was his caddie there, too.

''Mostly, I just carry the bag and keep my mouth shut,'' Vic said.

His specialty is wind: Matt does go to his dad for advice there. It helped this week.

''I don't get paid,'' Vic said. ''I don't want to be, of course. I just love doing it.''

The two have worked alongside each other for as long as either can remember. After college at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, Matt turned pro but called it quits after a couple years when it didn't pay off financially. That's when he became a firefighter.

But Matt never fully gave up golf, regaining his amateur status and going on to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship back in October. Vic caddied, of course.

''It's not something that happened over night,'' Vic said. ''He just wasn't lucky getting here. He really worked hard on his game.''

Being a firefighter actually allows him to practice and compete often. Matt works two 24-hour shifts a week.

He's not returning straight to his full-time job immediately, though. His upcoming golf schedule is packed. Starting Wednesday, Matt will compete in the Northeast Amateur tournament. Then he'll have the U.S. Amateur - after he gets married on Aug. 3 - and more.

Wherever and whatever, Vic will be standing nearby.

''He's always given me the opportunity to succeed,'' Matt said. ''None of this is possible without his support and his help.''

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Koepka wins U.S. Open for second straight year

By Nick MentaJune 17, 2018, 10:40 pm

Brooks Koepka on Sunday shot a final-round 68 to become just the seventh man in history to win the U.S. Open in back-to-back years. Here’s how Koepka managed to conquer a schizophrenic Shinnecock Hills and the field:

Leaderboard: Koepka (+1), Tommy Fleetwood (+2), Dustin Johnson (+3), Patrick Reed (+4), Tony Finau (+5)

What happened: Tied for the lead to start the day and playing in the second-to-last group with his good friend Johnson, Koepka raced out in front with birdies on three of his first five holes en route to a front-nine 2-under 33. Up one at the turn over Johnson, Reed and Fleetwood - who was already in the clubhouse following a round of 7-under 63 - Koepka birdied the par-4 10th and then pulled off a series of saves that ultimately won him the championship. He holed a 13-footer to save bogey at No. 11, saved par via a deft flop shot from the back of the green at 12, and then – after letting a birdie opportunity slip by at 13 – managed to get up and down from 67 yards for par at the 14th. Following a par at No. 17, the victory march was briefly in doubt when Koepka hooked his approach to the 18th green nearly into the grandstand. Unshaken, he pitched on to 14 feet, lagged his par putt, and tapped in for bogey to finish 1 over.

One clear of Fleetwood through 15, Koepka stuffed a wedge from 122 yards to inside 4 feet at the par-5 16th and cleaned up the birdie putt to go up two with two to play.


What it means: This is only Koepka’s third PGA Tour victory, but of course it’s his second major title and second U.S. Open. The 28-year-old, who missed four months this year with a wrist injury, joins Willie Anderson (1903-05), John McDermott (1911-12), Bobby Jones (1929-30), Ralph Guldahl (1937-38), Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89) as the only men to successfully defend their U.S. Open titles.

Round of the day: Six back to start the final round at 9 over par, Fleetwood took advantage of a literally watered-down golf course to tie the U.S. Open single-round scoring record with a 63. Last year’s Race to Dubai winner made eight birdies and lone a bogey. The 62-watch was on after Fleetwood circled Nos. 12-15 for four birdies in a row. Unfortunately for Fleetwood – and fortunately for Johnny Miller – the Englishman missed birdie putts from 13 feet, 20 feet and 9 feet on his last three holes, with his final attempt on the 72nd hole losing speed and missing low.

Told after the round that he was just the sixth player in history to record a round of 63 in the U.S. Open, Fleetwood was quick to answer, “Yeah, but I wanted 62.” He would wait another three hours to watch Koepka best him by one.


Biggest disappointment: In a way, it’s Fleetwood, who came thisclose to history on two fronts and walked away with neither the outright record nor the U.S. Open trophy. That said, it’s hard to fault the guy who shot 63. And so, this category has to belong to Johnson, the 2016 champion at Oakmont who entered the weekend ahead by four and closed with 77-70 to lose by two. He mixed four birdies with four bogeys Sunday, his final birdie at the last proving too little, too late. His biggest issue? The 72 putts he took over the weekend on Shinnecock's browned greens. This is the third U.S. Open in the last eight years (2010, 2015, 2018) to slip through his fingers on Sunday.

Other names of note: Reigning Masters champion Reed got off to a blistering start with birdies on five of his first seven holes to tie for the early lead. But a bogey at No. 9 would prove the beginning of his end. He paired a front-nine 31 with a back-nine 37 to shoot 2-under 68 and finish solo fourth. Conversely, the two men in the final pairing, Finau and Daniel Berger, both stumbled out of the gate, each playing the first six holes in 2 over, surrendering a lead they would never get back. Finau (71) fought back to even on the day but made an expensive double at No. 18 to drop from T-3 to solo fifth. Berger (73) parred 18 to stay in a three-way tie for sixth. Both men recorded their best career finishes in a major.