Wie hoping her game returns as sickness leaves

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2015, 11:56 pm

PHOENIX – Michelle Wie doesn’t need a caddie these days as much as she does a nurse.

There’s nothing wrong with her game that a dose of antibiotics shouldn’t eventually fix.

That’s what her swing coach, David Leadbetter, believes as Wie prepares to begin the LPGA’s West Coast swing in the JTBC Founders Cup at the Marriott Wildfire Golf Club.

“Michelle’s had a pretty slow start to the year, but she’s been pretty sick,” Leadbetter said after watching Wie in a practice round Tuesday. “She’s been sick for a month.”

It turns out those “flu-like symptoms” Wie played with at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic was actually strep throat, which she took with her on the tour’s Asian swing, where it  morphed into a sinus infection.

“The doctor said that I probably won’t be feeling 100 percent for the next couple weeks,” Wie said. “I’m feeling a lot better, thankfully, but it’s been tough. Right now, my No. 1 priority is just getting my health back in order.”

Expectations were ratcheted up again for Wie entering this year. Coming off last year’s U.S. Women’s Open victory at Pinehurst and her victory at the Lotte Championship, Wie seemed poised for more success. She looked ready to make a run at the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She was playing that well through the middle of last year.

But then late last July, there was a finger injury, a “stress reaction” to the bone of the index finger of her right hand. It kept her out of action for about two months. Then, after taking a long six-week break in the off season, there is this lingering illness.

In four starts this year, Wie doesn’t have a top-10 or even top-20 finish. She missed the cut in the Bahamas, where she felt most ill.

Wie, 25, isn’t blaming all her sluggishness on how lousy she has been feeling.

“I think, maybe, I’ve just been trying too hard,” Wie said.

Wie ended last year fourth on tour in putts per greens in regulation. She was third in hitting greens in regulation and third in scoring. She’s 73rd in that putting category so far this year, 89th in hitting greens and 51st in scoring.

“Winning the U.S. Open, it gave me a lot of confidence,” Wie said. “Last year, in general, definitely gave me a lot of confidence, but you always want to do better. I think as a professional athlete, if you don't have that hunger, something's not right, and I think you have to put the right balance between wanting to do better, but then sometimes . . . just trying too hard.

“I think that's something I struggle with internally, is just trying too hard, and trying to make everything so perfect. I think that's what I did so well last year, is just letting go, letting go and just letting things happen.”

Christina Kim, Wie’s good friend, pretty much dismisses Wie’s last month as mostly irrelevant.

“I wouldn’t put any thought to her first four events of the year,” Kim said. “She was able to take a break after the end of last year, and that’s going to end up being huge. I think she’s going to have another very big year. It’s just a matter of making sure she’s rested enough.”

Wie had a couple top 10s in Asia early last year, and then she got hot on the West Coast. She battled Lexi Thompson in a final-round duel at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, finishing second. In her very next start, she won the Lotte Championship in front of hometown fans in Hawaii. She won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst six starts after that, holding off then Rolex world No. 1 Stacy Lewis in the end.

“We’re focused a little bit on just reminding Michelle what she did at Pinehurst,” Leadbetter said. “She’s pretty close, so expect her to play well in the next couple weeks.”

The ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco, is two weeks away. Wie should be a good fit again at Mission Hills in Palm Springs. She has five top-10 finishes there, three finishes of fourth or better.

“I'm definitely putting the work in,” Wie said. “That's the kind of mentality I have. I know I'm working hard. I know I'm putting in all the hours. I know that I'm doing everything I can, and when I go out there, I've just got to let things happen, and try to free things up, for sure.”

With a little help from some antibiotics, Wie is hoping good things return to her game this week.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”