Thompson, Wie . . . it could happen
Thursday, October 1, 2009
There’s a 14-year-old one shot back of the leader at the LPGA event in Prattville, Ala. It’s no fluke, either. Alexis Thompson is perhaps the most talented 14-year-old girl since, well, the player who is hot on her heels: Michelle Wie.
It’s hard not to fast-forward to Sunday at the Navistar LPGA Classic and imagine a teenage duel for the ages. (Wie turns 20 on Oct. 11.) Talk about a terrific way to shed some of the bad mojo that has plagued this tour all season.
Thompson, one of the biggest perfectionists you’ll ever meet, shot 7-under 65 over the Capitol Hill course Thursday with one bogey; Wie bogeyed her final hole for a 66. Let’s hope Thompson didn’t go straight to the range like she did at the U.S. Women’s Open this year after an opening 71. Jim McLean tried to explain to his student that even par is a fine U.S. Open score.
The ninth-grader’s career-low round Thursday didn’t include a putt longer than 15 feet.
“I mean, my driver was a little off, but, I mean, I’m not gonna complain,” she said.
Thompson and her father made a last-minute decision to make the trip from South Florida. The LPGA allows two amateurs with a registered USGA 2.0 handicap or less to enter its qualifiers. The Monday qualifier was pushed back to Tuesday to accommodate those coming in from the West Coast.
The Tuesday qualifier eventually was canceled when all of the pros registered for the event got in off the alternate list. That put Thompson and fellow amateur Jordan Hardy automatically in the field.
Thompson looked at this event as a warm-up for her upcoming junior schedule.
“I haven’t played for a while after (Junior) Solheim,” Thompson said. “So like a week before, my dad was like, ‘You want to go and try to qualify for this event?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Why not? I might as well get some competition play out of it and get me ready for my other events coming up after.’ ”
Thompson is that girl whose name is always accompanied by a “youngest-to-ever” phrase. She’s a home-schooler who practices as many as eight hours per day.
The lanky blonde has won an AJGA title in each of the past three years, and she became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, at 12 years, 4 months, 1 day. She won the U.S. Girls’ Junior title at age 13.
What a weekend it would be for women’s golf if the Thompson-Wie showdown actually played out.
Thompson can vividly recall the last time she won a tournament. Can Wie?
• • •
Don’t try this swing at home: Charles Barkley played in Wednesday’s pro-am with Kris Tschetter, an LPGA veteran for whom he has caddied in the past. The transcript from Sir Charles’ interview was longer than the interviews of Lorena Ochoa and Natalie Gulbis combined.
Topics varied from his unique swing to his distaste for Twitter and reality TV. Say what you will about Sir Charles, but the man is never short on opinions.
• On the genesis of his swing: “I don’t know how it came about or how it happened. It’s been very frustrating trying to fix it. I mean, clearly you wouldn’t try to do what I do, not sober.”
• On Tweet Nation: “I always joke that people who do Twitter are idiots. (I’ve) never said to myself, ‘Let me check in and see what Shaquille O’Neal is doing today.’ ”
• On Alabama and his desire (or lack thereof) to be governor: “Well, I think the problem with politics now is they’ve all sold their souls. . . . I don’t have time for games. I wanted to get in politics to do great things. In Alabama, we’re number 48. We've got one of worst public-school systems in the country. We’re the fattest state. We’re No. 1 in diabetes, stroke and hypertension.
• • •
Hope it’s not contagious: Suzann Pettersen hired David Brooker to carry her bag in July after Lorena Ochoa fired him for some unknown reason. Brooker broke a foot while playing in an exhibition soccer match in Morelia (site of Ochoa’s last victory).
Now that Brooker is fit to work, it seems his new boss has foot troubles of her own. Pettersen pulled out of the CVS/pharmacy Challenge last week with a sore left foot and had an MRI late Monday in Orlando, Fla. The news wasn’t good – Pettersen’s agent, Jan Ove Nystuen, says she has a stress fracture in her left leg bone – and she also withdrew from this week’s event in Alabama. She is consulting with doctors on when she can return to competition.
Guess having a three-week break in the middle of October will be a good thing for at least one player.
• • •
Joh knows: Or does she? Tiffany Joh missed the cut at the first stage of LPGA Q-School, which means she’s at the LPGA’s second sectional qualifier (aka, the mulligan) this week in Florida. Joh is back to playing like a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, leading the qualifying field after two rounds.
Her driver was causing such headaches, Joh’s parents had to persuade her even to go to LPGA Q-School this year.
The UCLA grad sometimes lacks the confidence that usually comes with All-American status.
“I definitely think she can make it out there,” said Joh’s college coach, Carrie Forsyth.
“Does she know how good she is? That’s always been the question.”
• • •
Will it float? I’m not close friends with any millionaires, so I don’t have to grapple with ideas for Christmas and birthday presents. What does one get a superstar athlete who wears Dior earrings to play golf yet shops in thrift stores?
When Michelle Wie turns 20, no one can tie a bow around the one thing she surely wants most: a professional victory.
When asked if she had any big plans, Wie threw out this interesting response: “I don’t know – we’ll see. Might include an inflatable pool somewhere in there.”