As Wie rises, she may take the LPGA with her

By Randall MellJune 24, 2014, 11:00 pm

Michelle Wie’s breakthrough Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open is resonating far beyond the buzz expected.

Nancy Lopez could hear it Monday night when she arrived in New York for the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association National Awards Dinner, where she received the Winnie Palmer Award for devotion to the less fortunate.

“It seemed like everyone watched Michelle win,” Lopez said. “We were all talking about it.”

The buzz took off in entirely unanticipated directions with Wie’s own arrival in New York City on Tuesday for a whirlwind media tour. An amusing tweet showing her turning the Harton S. Semple trophy into a giant beer mug during her victory party was already viral upon her arrival, so was a video of her doing some gravity-defying twerking.

A TMZ camera crew scrambled alongside Wie on the streets of New York and asked about her it.

Dan Patrick couldn’t resist asking about it when she called in to do his national radio show.

“Michelle Wie, U.S. Women’s Open champ, amateur twerker, joining us on the program,” Patrick said.

Wie, 24, went with the flow, asking if Patrick and his “Danettes” would twerk for her.

“It was fun,” Wie said of her victory party. “I worked really hard for it. It was just really fun to see all my friends come together, and we had a really good time.”

After bouncing from the Today Show, to Fox & Friends, to CNN, to CNBC, to FoxSports1, Wie literally took the women’s game to stunning heights. She did local media interviews atop the Empire State Building. A lot of devoted fans of the women’s game are eagerly waiting to see if she will be taking the LPGA to new heights with her.

While Wie might not have taken her golf clubs to New York, she was still posting scores.

In the game of sports marketing, there’s this thing called Q Score, which measure awareness and appeal based on surveys. Wie’s Q Score is undergoing an overhaul now. Her national TV and radio shows tour is part of that.

“These are the things you need to do to get exposed to broader audiences,” said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations, which measure Q Scores. “All of this is going to create a lot of chatter about her, create additional exposure, but I’m not sure twerking brings the kind she wants. That might make her more polarizing.”

Surprisingly, Wie’s Q Score was just 14 before she won the U.S. Women’s Open, Schafer said. Lexi Thompson carried a Q Score of 37 into the championship. While those surveyed were almost three times more aware of who Wie is compared to Thompson (45 percent to 16 percent), Thompson’s appeal was higher.

Now, with Wie’s victory, her story will be retold to a larger audience, and her Q Score is likely to reflect that when it is recalculated in a month or so. She isn’t a controversial teen phenom anymore, or a struggling pro failing to live up to HER potential. She’s the broken player who persevered to put herself back together.

Swing coach David Leadbetter calls this season Wie’s rebirth, her second career. Marketing analysts see the possibilities beyond her shot-making skills.

“In the broader market, there is a real void and need for a female global star in sports,” said Peter Stern, founder of The Strategic Agency, a New York-based sports and entertainment marketing firm. “She has star quality and a real opportunity to connect with the millennials, to be very attractive to luxury products, and I can see her playing in the fashion and beauty world.”

Wie already has endorsement deals with Nike, Kia, Omega, McDonald’s, Sime Darby and Zengyro. In a sense, she also has an informal one with the LPGA, whom she represents every time she tees it up.

“She can be a tremendous shot in the arm for women’s golf, similar to what Tiger Woods has been for the men,” Stern said. “A few more wins, and she could really move the needle.”

Former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mechem watched Wie help fuel a rising tide in women’s golf with much satisfaction this past weekend.

“I’m 84 now, and in my contact with people even my age, they’re talking about women’s golf more than they ever have,” Mechem said. “Michelle winning is a huge plus. There is clearly a big buzz, and I think it’s only going to increase. It isn’t just what happened last week. This has been happening for a year or two.”


Photos: Michelle Wie takes New York City by storm

Wie boosted NBC’s U.S. Women’s Open TV ratings Sunday to 1.7, a 92-percent increase over last year’s final-round. She looks poised to fulfill the promise she first showed as a teenager. She has two victories this year and was runner-up in the year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco.

“I think we’re clearly seeing a changing of the guard in women’s golf,” Mechem said. “We still have great players like Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb, but there’s a new group of players with Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, you could go on and on.”

With Wie winning the U.S. Women’s Open and Thompson the Kraft Nabisco, Americans have claimed the first two major championships of the year for the first time since 1999. With Lewis No. 1 in the world, Korda, Paula Creamer and Lizette Salas all winning this year, Americans are regaining a dominant foothold in the women’s game.

Could we be moving toward another golden era in American women’s golf?

“We were talking about that last night,” Lopez said, referring to the Metropolitan Golf Writers dinner. “I hope so. Michelle would be a great face for the LPGA, if she can keep it going. She is part of such a fantastic stable in the women’s game right now.”

Four-time major championship winner Meg Mallon grew up watching and then joining one of the golden ages in women’s golf. She was in high school in 1978 when Lopez won nine LPGA titles as a rookie.

“As a kid, I followed the Olympic sports and athletes. I didn’t really follow women’s golf, but she brought the sport to the front page on everyone’s doorstep,” Mallon said.

Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, Amy Alcott, Hollis Stacy and Beth Daniel overlapped the career of Lopez in the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.

“It was an amazing era of women’s golf, and I could definitely see that developing again with this group of young players in the game now,” Mallon said. “Nancy was the best thing that happened to the tour. She brought a lot of attention to all those great players. I could definitely see Michelle being that type of player, somebody who can bring attention to all these other players and the tour as a whole.”

Bradley, the Hall of Famer who won 31 LPGA titles, appreciated what Lopez did for the entire tour.

“People came out to watch Nancy, and some of them watched me,” Bradley said. “Nancy did that for my generation, and I can see Michelle doing that for this generation. She can move the needle for the LPGA like Tiger did for the PGA Tour. This young lady has very broad shoulders.”

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting a competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show in which he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing> Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a tournament.

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"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.

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Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.