Wie's unorthodox approach paying dividends

By Randall MellJune 29, 2017, 10:00 pm

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Michelle Wie is the rebel with a cause now.

“She has never been orthodox,” says David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

With a new putting style that borders on  multiple personality disorder, with her quirky pre-shot routines and now her unusually configured golf bag, Wie may be the LPGA’s most unorthodox player.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s working.

Somehow, some wacky way, it’s turning her around.

“It’s not pretty,” said Stacy Lewis, who played alongside Wie. “But it is working.”

Wie’s 3-under-par 68 Thursday put her into early contention at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, just two shots behind Chella Choi, the early leader.

Wie is finding her game with a hodge-podge of inventive technique and strategies. In some ways, Leadbetter said, she’s actually finding herself in this unconventional approach.

“Michelle has always had a unique way of going about things,” Leadbetter said.

Think Lonzo Ball’s quirky shooting form, Hideo Nomo’s eccentric pitching delivery, Rick Barry’s unconventional granny-style free throws and Dick Fosbury’s flop. They are all Wie’s kind of athletes.

“I’m just like, `This feels right, and I go with it,’” Wie said.

Wie’s tabletop putting stance was the oddest in golf last year. While her new stance looks so much more fundamentally sound now, her use of multiple grips is weird science.

Or, given Wie’s love of painting, maybe weird art.

Wie used at least three different putting grips Thursday in her round of five birdies and two bogeys on a windswept Olympia Fields Country Club course playing difficult.

She putted with the claw, she putted left-hand low and she putted conventional.

There might have been a couple more she improvised.

“I don’t know,” Wie said. “Don’t try to figure it out. It will be really hard.”

Wie’s bag was also unusually configured for a big hitter. She also stuck an 11-wood in it before the round.

“I told her she has more head covers in her bag now than Mi Hyun Kim ever did,” Leadbetter cracked.

KPMG Women’s PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Leadbetter’s loving this.

“You can’t explain this to somebody,” Leadbetter said. “It wouldn’t make sense.”

The scorecards are adding up quite nicely, though.

After slumping through her worst year in eight seasons as a pro, Wie is making yet another comeback this season. She arrived this week as one of the favorites. She shot 64 last Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and tied for fourth. She tied for second in her start before that and tied for third the week before that.

“I kind of was sick of playing bad golf, honestly,” Wie said of her resurgence this season. “I was just sick of being down, and really started this year with a really good sense of determination and motivation. It's a long time to be out there to be miserable. So I just kind of made a pact with myself that I'm going to have fun, and if I hit a bad shot, brush it off.”

Wie is in early position to try to add a second major championship to her resume. She’s looking to win for the first time since she claimed the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst three years ago.

Wie’s success isn’t coming just from her improved putting. It’s coming from consistent ball striking. Wie attributes this to the new, more consistent fade she’s grooving.

Lewis marveled over what she was seeing. Well, what she dared to watch.

“I did not watch a lot of her shots,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t help you to see those kind of shots, but she is believing in what she is doing, and she’s hitting good shots, and she’s hitting it the same every time. That’s what good golf is.”

Lewis called Wie’s new shot shape more of a big cut than a fade.

Lewis was asked if she saw all the different putting grips Wie has used.

“There’s different everything,” but it is working,” Lewis said.

Wie says the left-to-right ball flight is helping her hit more fairways. It has also helped her eliminate two-way misses. She is basically taking trouble on the left out of play.

Wie was counting on this improved control in helping her in major championships.

“Knowing where the ball isn’t going to go is as important as knowing where it’s going to go in this game.” Leadbetter said.

Wie hit 12 of 14 fairways Thursday, and she hit 14 greens in regulation.

“Michelle likes to go at the ball hard,” Leadbetter said. “The great thing is hitting this fade allows her to be very aggressive. That fits her personality.”

And so do all the unorthodox ideas.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.