Sunday, April 20, 2014

Aloha! The Big Wiesy Returns!

- There are movie writers out there jealous of the script that has been written this week. Michelle Wie, for years, gets pummeled by golf writers for failing to live up to the promise she showed ten years ago. Two weeks ago, she comes close to winning her first major title, but comes up short to another phenom, Lexi Thompson, only to return home to Hawaii and win her first LPGA Tour event in four years. It's the kind of redemption story you hear about all the time in sports, but you're still amazed when it happens. I doubt there will be a more popular victory this season, by players and fans alike.

- For those who completely wrote off Wie, here are some facts for you - she is 24, has finished in the top 10 four times this season, including a runner up finish at a major and a win this week. She has taken over the top spot on the money list, is second in the Race For The CME Globe, and is playing the best golf of her career. I know players like Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko are making it so we expect greatness at such a young age, but sometimes failure can turn someone into a much stronger player.

- Is there a better scenario for the LPGA then to see a Thompson/Wie back and forth throughout the course of the season. Sure, I love a lot of players on tour; in fact, I find myself partial to many of the Asian born players, but even the most biased fans of certain players have to admit that the idea of Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie being on top of the world would be ideal to bring in interest for the Tour.

- I will forgive you if you didn't know the name Hyo Joo Kim. She hardly ever plays in the US, and she only turned professional in 2012, so the casual golf fan likely has not heard anything about her. That will change very soon, I would suspect. Kim's fourth place finish this week validated what many fans of Asian golf already know - Hyo Joo Kim is really, really good. She should be at all the majors this year, and expect her to be in contention for at least one of them. Oh, and while we're on the topic of phenoms - Kim is only 18 years old.

- Se Ri Pak's third round 74 derailed her, but it is not going to change the outlook I have on her going forward. Pak is feeling it now. She no longer seems worried about her shoulder, which was the main thing holding her back the past several years. With Wie breaking through this week, no one seems more "due" for another victory then Pak...except maybe So Yeon Ryu, who just notched another top 10, but seems to be getting further and further away from LPGA victory number 3.

- I'll be honest - when Matt Kuchar three putted the 17th green, I thought he had just choked away another victory. As my father always used to say "sometimes, it's better to be lucky then good." Kuchar has had everything go against him in final rounds the past three weeks, and when that bunker shot when in the hole on the 18th, it was almost as if golf was repaying him for his patience. I'm sure he'd rather have a green jacket then a tartan one, but a win is a win, and after the month Kuchar has had, I'm sure he's not going to complain.

- If you asked me if I'd rather be entering the final round with the lead, or a stroke or two back, I'd rather come from behind. Once again, the 54 hole leader fails to convert, and it was former World Number One Luke Donald that was the culprit. A runner up finish is nice for Luke Donald, who has struggled lately, but he's going to need a lot more if he's going to try and make the Ryder Cup team. With so many players not guaranteed a spot yet (Donald, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter), the final spot on the team may come down to the veteran who is able to sneak out a victory. I don't know if this week was an example of Donald's game improving, or if it was just the fact that this golf course caters to his eye, but he's going to need some more big weeks coming up. Besides, I don't know how much I can look at this week from an optimistic standpoint if Donald can't seal the deal with a two shot lead.

- Kuchar's final round 64 was far and away the best round of the day, and nobody broke 70 all four days of the tournament, which goes to show that a golf course doesn't have to be 7,500 yards to be difficult. Harbour Town's wind and rain gave the course some bite, and players had to rely on superior ball striking and putting to perform well this week. Wow, what a concept.

- When someone finds Zach Johnson's putting, can you also find his confidence while you're at it? No one has gone from being spectacular to being incredibly mediocre quicker this season than Johnson, who looked liked he was poised to take over the top spot in the World Golf Rankings. Zach is one of my favorite players, and I really hope he finds his game again soon, because it's hard to watch him the way he's playing.

- Did anyone SERIOUSLY think Jordan Spieth was in for a letdown after the Masters?

- I'm not sure what to take from Lee Westwood's victory in Malaysia this week. On one end, a win is a win, and for someone who has struggled the past year and a half, raising another trophy may be the confidence needed. On the other hand, it was a win that occurred on the other side of the world with a weak field. Westwood is another one of those Ryder Cup faithfuls that needs to do some work to make the team, so we will have to see is this translates into more strong performances for the Englishmen.

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