Sports Outside the Beltway

Michelle Wie is back but is her golf game?

Her results in Hawaii were mixed.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii — After two encouraging rounds to start her year, Michelle Wie shot a 6-over 78 on Saturday in the final round of Fields Open to finish 20 strokes behind winner Paula Creamer.

“Obviously I’m a little disappointed with today’s round,” said Wie, who opened with rounds of 69 and 73.

At 4-over 220, she tied for last among the 74 players who made the cut.

“Felt like I was a little rusty out there,” Wie said. “I just got to keep on playing.”

The 18-year-old Wie, who started the round on No. 10 at 2 under, went double bogey-par-triple bogey to fall to 3 over heading into the turn. She rebounded a bit on the final nine, with two birdies and three bogeys, including one on the final hole.


The Stanford freshman shot a 69 on Thursday, breaking 70 for the first time since the Evian Ladies Masters in July 2006. She made the cut with two strokes to spare with a second round 73.

I’d say the jury is still out. Michelle’s results were all right the first two rounds. Houndog did however note that while Michelle shooting a first round 69, she only hit six fairways and nine greens in regulation.

Where does Michelle play next? I don’t know, but I did read she wasn’t invited to the Kraft Nabisco the LPGA’s first major. We may have to wait a while before getting chance to evaluate the state of Michelle Wie’s golf game.


Michelle Wie confident but says injured wrists will never be the same

She gave a press conference yesterday two days before teeing it up in the Fields Open.

KAPOLEI, Hawaii — Michelle Wie is healthier, stronger and determined to succeed but concedes her injured wrists will never be the same.

“I just accepted the fact that it’s never going to be 100 percent ever again. After a major injury last year, it’s never going to be the way it was before,” she said Tuesday as she prepared for the LPGA Tour’s Fields Open, which begins Thursday.

The 18-year-old Wie said she’s accepted that her wrists are as good as they can be. She’s hoping to get her career back on track after a troublesome season of injuries, missed cuts and withdrawals.

“Obviously, it’s not 110 percent, but I feel pretty healthy,” she said. “I feel a lot stronger. I feel like I can be a lot more aggressive with the ball. I feel more like an athlete right now.”

Wie is starting the season on her home island of Oahu for the fifth straight year on a sponsor’s exemption.


She injured both wrists last year but kept playing, and struggling. She made only three cuts. In nine starts, she withdrew twice and only broke par twice in 19 rounds against women.

2007 was an unmitigated disaster for Michelle but the warning signs came early. Her poor play in late 2006 and reports of wrist problems early in 07.

I’ll go out on a limb, by sticking to my prediction that Michelle returns to form in 2008. Tomorrow we’ll get the first clue as to if I’m right or wrong.


2008 LPGA Tour Preview

The US Ladies Professional Golf Tour has their season opener beginning tomorrow at the SBS Open. Paula ‘The Pink Panther’ Creamer is the defending champion.

I was credentialed to online report the 2007 season-ending ADT Championship last November. Lorena Ochoa won by two shots. Coming off two years in a row of being the LPGA’s leading money winner will Lorena be again at the top of the money list when the 2008 season is over?

Will Annika Sorenstam come back from her injury plagued 2007?

Who will be the top American golfer? Paula Creamer, defending US Open Champ Christie Kerr, or will it be someone else?

Are veterans Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst in the decline phase of their careers?

Will Suzann Pettersen have her second big year in a row or was 2007 an anomaly?

How many tournaments will the Korean players win this year?

Who will be rookie of the year?

What will Michelle Wie do in 2008?

My answers

1- Ochoa repeats as the #1 money winner and player of the year.

2- Annika wins again but is far being from the dominant player she was a few years ago.

3- Creamer will be the #1 American money winner for 2007.

4- Juli is 48, Pat has two school age children. Both didn’t play that well in 2007. I think both Pat and Juli have seen their best years already. If one of them were to re-emerge it will be Pat. Juli is 48 years old.

5- Suzann is a good player, but IMHO 2007 was way over her head. I’m predicting a dropoff this year, right out of the top 10. Feel free to remind me how wrong I was if Suzann does otherwise.

6- The South Koreans will win 6 tournaments this year. Good question, how do you classify Angela Park? She is of Korean heritage, but born in Brazil and grew up in the US. Angela is an American in my book.

7- This is a weak rookie class. Momoko Ueda gets the nod because of her victory at last year’s Mizuno.

8- Michelle will have a much improved 2008 and will contend in several tournaments but not win. I also predict Michelle to announce her intention to begin playing professional golf full-time in 2009.

Other predictions-

Karrie Webb wins a tournament after an off 2007.
At least of the Korean players takes home a major. It could well be Ji-Yai Shin.
Ai Miyazato breaks through to win her first LPGA event.

Taking after Golf columnist Ron Sirak, plus bloggers Hound Dog and The Constructivist, I will list my top 30 for 2008. They are under the fold.


Michelle Wie to start ’08 at LPGA Fields Open

It will be her first professional event since October 2007. From Golf Week-

Michelle Wie will make her 2008 LPGA debut at the Fields Open in Hawaii, according to a report in the Honolulu Advertiser.

The Fields, the second LPGA event of the season, will be held Feb. 21-23 at Ko Olina Golf Club in Honolulu. It will be Wie’s first tournament since she finished second-to-last at the Samsung World Championship last October.

“I’m excited to see Michelle because she’s spent so much time out here,” Ko Olina director of golf Greg Nichols told the Advertiser. “It will be great to have her back. … This is her home course and I fully expect her to play well.”

Wie finished third at the 2006 Fields Open, a shot out of a playoff; she did not play the event last year.

Michelle is a very talented golfer. If her wrists have healed, she should return to pre-2007 form. Her passing on the Sony Open was a good sign, lets hope there are more in the year ahead.


Michelle Wie won’t play at Sony Open

The 18-year-old is postponing her 2008 debut.

Michelle Wie might start her 2008 season in Hawaii, but not at the Sony Open. Wie, who has played the PGA Tour event every year since 2004, did not receive one of the four unrestricted sponsor exemptions, tournament director Ray Stosik said Thursday.

Swing coach David Leadbetter said the 18-year-old from Honolulu likely would ask for exemptions at one or both of the LPGA Tour events in Hawaii that kick off the women’s golf season in February. He also said competition against the men would probably be on hold until she gets her health and her game back together.

“She’s not ready to play in that yet,” Leadbetter said of the Sony Open, where Wie first rose to fame by shooting 68 at age 14 and missing the cut by one shot. “Her health is getting better, her game is getting better, the confidence is growing. The plan hasn’t been made totally for this year yet, but she’s looking to play one or two Hawaiian events against the women.

“The whole goal is to get back on track after the debacle last year.”

The debacle included Wie trying to play despite both wrists being injured. She made only three cuts in nine starts, withdrew twice and only broke par two times.

I’ve said from the first moment after hearing about Michelle’s wrist injuries, that she needed to take a thorough rest in order to let them heal. Something she didn’t do, probably because of pressure/bad advice from her parents and others in her camp.

The playing against the men gig got tiresome before Michelle’s injury problems. Even if Michelle becomes a LPGA superstar(and I think she can), at the very best she would be run of the mill against PGA pros. Fans will start seeing this, if they haven’t already, and the novelty will wear off.

I do hope 2008 is a better year for Michelle Wie.


Michelle Wie Places 4th on Best-Paid Youngsters List

Michelle did better off the course than on.

Korean-American golf star Michelle Wie took the 4th spot on Forbes magazine’s 20 Under 25 list of Top-Earning Young Superstars, which includes both athletes and entertainers.

Despite her poor showing this year, the 18-year-old golfer banked US$19 million thanks to activities and endorsements last year, beating out all three “Harry Potter” stars — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint — and other famous Hollywood actresses such as Scarlett Johansson and Lindsay Lohan, who ranked 12th and 18th with $5 million and $3.5 million, respectively.

At the top of the list was basketball star LeBron James, 23, a forward with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. James earned $27 million from June 2006 to June 2007. The NFL’s New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush, 22, came in second with $24 million. Maria Sharapova, 20, the world’s reigning queen of tennis, grabbed third place with $23 million.

I honestly hope Michelle finds her pre-2007 golf game. The money won’t keep rolling in forever without results on the golf course.

Hat tip- ROK Drop


LPGA Year End Awards

The Ladies Professional Golf year is almost over. We’ll celebrate the best, oddest, or just plain out of nowhere things that happened in 2007.

Player of the Year- Lorena Ochoa. Seven wins and a British Open title make her the hands down selection.

Rookie of the Year- Angela Park. At the Fields Open in February, Angela finished third and never let up the rest of the year. A tie for second and two more third place finishes left Angela with almost double the points of her next closest pursuer for Rookie of the Year.

Shot of the Year- Momoko Ueda’s final round double eagle at the Mizuno Classic. It propelled Momoko to a two-shot triumph.

Comeback of the Year- This is one of the toughest choices I have when it comes to 2007 awards. The four top candidates as I see it are Suzann Pettersen, Maria Hjorth, Birdie Kim, and Beth Bader.

Suzann’s and Maria’s stake to Comeback player of the year too closely resembles Karrie Webb in 2006, and I didn’t think Karrie was right choice last year either. Going from 46th on the money list to 2nd isn’t a comeback to me.

Birdie, the surprise 2005 US Open Champ, has had a much better year than her dismal 2006. Still she misses lots of cuts and her strokes per round average(73.40 to 73.86) is barely different than last year.

Beth Bader went from 83rd to 46th on the money list. Easily Beth’s best year.

Based on her poor 2005, I’ll give comeback player of the year to Suzann Pettersen.

‘Where did they come from?’ Award- Meaghan Francella. Honorable mention to Na On Min.

Best finish of the year- We have a tie. Between The Sherri Steinhauer/Christina Kim State Farm Classic final round battle and the Laura Davies and Suzann Pettersen duel at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Collapse of the year- Another tie. Suzann Pettersen and Se Ri Pak. Both looked to have the Kraft Nabisco in the bag on Sunday, but failed to close.

2007 Mom of the Year- Juli Inkster edges Catorina Matthew.

‘The Tiger Woods had it easy’ award- To the new LPGA Moms of 2007, Hee Won Han, Karen Stupples, Hillary Lunke and Jackie Gallagher-Smith. Also Catorina Matthew who had her daughter in 2006, but returned to play in 2007. As a father, I know mothers have the hardest job around. That these women can combine motherhood and professional golf, should get a big round of applause. That goes for all 29 LPGA Moms.

The ‘What me worry?’ award- Se Ri Pak for her final round birdie of the sixth hole at the Jamie Farr after Morgan Pressel made a hole in one on the same hole. Se Ri went on to win her fifth Farr Classic.

The ‘I survived’ award- Brittany Lincicome for her win at the Ginn Open. Morgan Pressel gets honorable mention.

‘The Raindrops keep falling on my head’ award- To Mother nature for washing out the NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q Hammons. Only 18 holes were played. And I thought the south was suffering from a drought this year.

The ‘Pick who doesn’t belong’ award- Maria Hjorth. She was the only non-Asian among the four semifinalists at the HSBC World Match Play Championship.

The ‘Scotty and the search party’ award Part I- Michelle Wie. Can someone please locate her golf game?

The ‘Scotty and the search party’ award Part II- Morgan Pressel’s golf clubs. They were stolen the day after she won the Kraft Nabisco.

The ‘Thank God for electronic scoreboards’ award- Stacy Prammanasudh and Virada Nirapathpongporn for their duel in the early rounds of the Navistar. Imagine if Vicki Goetze-Ackerman and Jackie Gallagher-Smith had been in contention…….

The ‘Go away little monkey award’- Lorena Ochoa, Christie Kerr, and Natalie Gulbis. Lorena and Christie for winning their first major, Gulbis for winning.

The ‘Big hand for a little lady’ award- Mi Hyun ‘Peanut’ Kim for her donation to Kansas tornado victims

The ‘biggest splash’ award- Morgan Pressel at the Nabisco

The ‘thanks but no thanks’ award- Annika Sorenstam for turning down a last minute invite to the Samsung.

The ‘What the heck’? award- St Andrews 17th Road Hole plays as a par five for the British Open.

The ‘Sizzler’ award- In-Kyung Kim for shooting an LPGA record 27 for 9 holes.

The ‘Pitchforks and torches’ award- To the Korean golf fans who got upset when the Hana Bank-KOLON final round was canceled. Who says LPGA fans aren’t enthusiastic?

‘The Never forget but keep on living’ award- Durmaed Futures player Jenny Hansen whose husband Jeff was killed while serving in Iraq in 2006. Ji Yai Shin gets honorable mention.

The ‘Chokin Freakin Dogs’ award- To….cough…cough…Dottie Pepper. Dottie may well have destroyed any chance she had of being a Solheim Cup Captain in the future.

‘We need an optometrist STAT’ award- To the ESPN announcer who mixed up Laura Davies and Laura Diaz at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

Biggest letdowns of 2007- Karrie Webb, Meena Lee, Pat Hurst, only 4 Korean winners this year

Million Dollar winner award- You’ll have to check back in on Sunday to see who wins that one.


Happy 18th Birthday Michelle Wie

She is playing at this weekend’s Samsung World Championship.

PALM DESERT, Calif. – Michelle Wie is playing her final LPGA Tour event of the year.

She wishes it were her first. After a disastrous season filled with wrist injuries, a feud with Annika Sorenstam and only one round under par, Wie said Tuesday her biggest mistake was not taking the year off to get healthy.

“The only thing that I would do differently (is) I wouldn’t have played this year. It’s as simple as that,” she said at the Samsung World Championship. “The only thing that I did wrong this year is that I did not take my injuries as seriously as I should have.”

1- I’ve always felt Michelle needed a long rest after injuring her wrists. Her playing in tournaments while hurt was certain to exacerbate the injuries.

If Michelle didn’t want to play, why did she play? I’m sure her parents and IMG had something to do with it. The athlete has to make the final decision as to if they are physically able to play, rather than having the decision made by others for them.

As of today, Michelle is an adult and can legally make her own decisions. Will she begin making her own schedule?

2- The AP article makes no mention of Michelle’s birthday. Here is an article acknowledging the significance of today.

Wie is no longer the wunderkind who was – and many people forget this – recording never-before-seen accomplishments on the golf course on a regular basis, from age 12 through 16. She’s not even a kid anymore; as of today, she’s an adult.

Compare Wie at age 12, at age 13, 14, 15 or 16, to Paula Creamer or Morgan Pressel at the same age, and Wie was far ahead of each. But compare them at age 17, and Wie – through injuries, incomplete swing changes, and terrible decisions – is no longer in the same ballpark.

Now, Wie is just another 18-year-old golfer – and as it stands today, not even a particularly good one – in an LPGA Tour environment where other 18-year-olds are winning majors (Pressel) or running away with rookie of the year (Angela Park) .

While Michelle is no longer a kid, she is a still a draw on tour. Thousands of people come to see her play. While 2007 has been a disaster, I expect Michelle to have an excellent LPGA career. One better than Pressel, Creamer, or Angela Park.

3- Is this really Michelle’s last LPGA event of 2007? There is one scenario, far fetched as it may sound that would allow Michelle to play on tour one more time in 2007. Michelle would have to win the Samsung this weekend, and that would earn her a spot in next month’s Tournament of Champions.

In 2003, 2005, and 2006 non-LPGA tour players, won the late October early November tour stop in South Korea. Their names were Shi Hyun Ahn, Jee Young Lee, and Jin Joo Hong. Each of these three South Korean ladies were then given spots in the Tournament of Champions. The tournaments being played only two weeks apart.

So Michelle isn’t out of the running to play again this year, though the chances appear slim. Stranger things have happened in Ladies Professional Golf.

In the meantime, she appears to love life as a college student.

Wie said she thought about going to LPGA Tour qualifying school now that she is old enough to become a member, but it was the same time as orientation at Stanford.

I’m glad she is enjoying college. Michelle needs to take an extended break from golf after this weekend. This in order for Wie to return to form in 2008.


Natalie Gulbis- Is she golf’s Anna Kournikova?

Michael Arkush at Yahoo sports writes-

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. – Natalie Gulbis seems to have it all. She has appeared in her own reality series on The Golf Channel, posed for a calendar and made more than $2.5 million since joining the LPGA Tour in 2002. Yep, Gulbis has it all – well, except that she never has won a professional golf tournament.

Mind you, she has come close. Last year, she lost a playoff at Jamie Farr’s event in Ohio to Mi Hyun Kim. She easily could have won it. The year before, she finished third twice. Still, no Ws in 144 starts.

It’s one thing to be without a major, another to be without a victory. That sounds a lot like Anna Kournikova. Yet Gulbis is no Kournikova. She will win out here. It won’t be this week – she ended Saturday tied for 35th at 5 over par – and it may not be soon. She is suffering from a disk problem that caused her to withdraw from two tournaments and miss another in the last month. If this weren’t the U.S. Women’s Open, there is no way she would be here. She is playing with pain.

What I said with Michelle Wie and her wrist injury, applies to Natalie also or any golfer. If injured, rest is required. Trying to play while hurt is not going to have good results and make the healing process taken even longer.

Arkush is the first golf writer I know of to make the Natalie Gulbis-Anna Kournikova analogy.(Some made the analogy between Michelle Wie and Anna of late. Wiesy doesn’t match up. That’s all I say) I did it almost a year ago after Natalie’s playoff loss to Mi Hyun Kim in Toledo. The golf media is mistaking Natalie’s physical talents for her talent on the golf course. Natalie can play, but she’ll never be a superstar golfer.

So why hasn’t she won yet? She blames it on driving accuracy, and the numbers support her. Since turning pro, she never has finished in the top 50 of that crucial category. This season, entering the Open, she stood at 49th, hitting 71 percent of her fairways. That’s not nearly good enough.

Gulbis needs to get that figure up to about 73 or 74 percent. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. She’s working on it, spending as much as possible when she’s home in Las Vegas with her coach, Butch Harmon. They also talk when she’s on the road.

Some have speculated that Gulbis has allowed herself to be too distracted with the TV show and the calendar and all the other glamour stuff. Not true, she indicated. All the glamour stuff happens in the offseason. The game is what she focuses on during the season.

Gulbis has been dedicated for years. In 1997, at age 14, she became the youngest player (at the time) to Monday-qualify for an LPGA event. She won four tournaments in her freshman year at the University of Arizona and later qualified for the tour on her first try. She knew what she wanted and went after it.

Her first three years were solid, if not spectacular, finishing each time about 40th on the money list. Then, in 2005, she had what appeared to be her breakthrough season, finishing sixth with more than $1 million in earnings. She recorded an impressive 12 top-10s in 27 starts and was a member of the Solheim Cup team. Last year, she ranked 16th on the money list. Those are not Kournikova stats.


Yet she is only 24. There is time.

Yes there is time, and I’m predicting Natalie will win on the LPGA Tour eventually and multiple times. You have to remember, with the constant influx of South Korean talent, Natalie’s first win is not going to come easily. There is plenty of good players who have yet to find their way to the LPGA. I and Mr. Arkush could be wrong too. There have been a long line of not miss golfers in PGA and LPGA history. Who is to say Natalie Gulbis won’t be another.

Maybe the golf MSM will give us a break from their Natalie hype till that win is acheived. I’m betting otherwise. These guys thinking and writing when not full of factual errors, is too often driven by their male egos.


Michelle Wie withdraws from John Deere Classic

She was scheduled to play the PGA Tour event July 12-15.

Unable to break par against the women, Michelle Wie is taking a break from competing against the men. Wie decided Tuesday to withdraw from the John Deere Classic as she tries to return from wrist injuries that have sent the 17-year-old from Hawaii into a deep slump of high scores and shrinking confidence.

“While my rehabilitation is on schedule, I do not have all of my strength back yet,” Wie said in a statement. “The TPC Deere Run course is obviously very long, and I just don’t have the length to play there right now.”

Wie said she still plans to play next week in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, and she said she would keep playing the rest of the summer as she tries to regain strength in her wrists.

Wie has played the John Deere Classic the last two years on sponsor exemptions, nearly making the cut as a 15-year-old in 2005 with a performance that made her a celebrity with the community. She was one shot below the cut line until a double bogey and a bogey late in her round, missing by two shots with rounds of 70-71.

She opened with a 77 last year, then withdrew midway through the second round with what was said to be heat exhaustion. Wie was taken from the course on a stretcher.

I agree with Golf World’s Ron Sirak, who says this was the first common sense move by the Wie camp in some time. So far as Michelle playing the LPGA, I’d think it would be wiser for her to take an extended rest to allow her wrists to heal properly.


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