Michelle Wie West set for one last stroll down memory lane at US Women’s Open

The 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion at Pinehurst, less than five miles from where the field of 156 tees off in Thursday’s first round of the most prestigious event in women’s golf, has been soaking in the atmosphere a bit more than usual over the past few days. , even if that includes playful jabs at her longevity.

The levity and moments of introspection stem from Wie West’s recent announcement she would be taking an indefinite leave from playing competitively following the US Women’s Open to devote more time to advocating for representation and inclusion in the women’s game and more-equitable treatment of its athletes.

Michelle Wie West walks the fairway on the 17th hole during a practice round Wednesday at the US Women’s Open.Chris Carlson / Associated Press

“I think she’s one of those players that everybody looks at, those young people look at when they make that last putt,” he said. John Bodenhamer, the USGA chief champions officer. “They’re seeing Michelle Wie win the US Women’s Open a few years ago, watching her play, her athleticism, and I think the diversity part of it just increases the inspiration. It’s where the game is going. ”

The initiatives Wie West is in the process of managing include a partnership with equipment manufacturer LA Golf designed to provide female players with benefits in line with their male counterparts, most notably full health care with mental health days.

Additional plans include paid maternity leave, performance bonuses and concierge services to alleviate the potential stresses of constant travel – such as occasional uncertainty surrounding whether players’ clubs make it to airport baggage carousels.

Throughout most of her career Wie West has had the luxury of traveling with a team that handled those details while on the road. Many players, however, do not have the endorsement deals and / or resources that allow for such accommodations.

The USGA has addressed some of those issues already by, for instance, reimbursing travel expenses for all amateurs at this year’s US Women’s Open. It is also providing $ 8,000 to each professional who fails to make the cut at Pine Needles, which is hosting a record fourth US Women’s Open.

“Huge kudos to the USGA for really buying into the women’s sport and the LPGA for just growing up and keeping pushing the boundaries,” said Wie West, a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour. “When doors get closed on us we just keep pushing, and I’m just so proud of everyone on Tour and the USGA for really buying in and setting the level right.”

Michelle Wie West said she’s planning to step away from the game of golf after this weekend’s US Women’s Open.Chris Carlson / Associated Press

Wie West’s association with the USGA goes back decades, with the first major highlight coming when at 13 she finished first at the Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship to become the youngest winner in an adult tournament in USGA history.

One year earlier she became the youngest to qualify for an LPGA Tour event, the LPGA Takefuji Classic.

She also achieved prominence at 14 by competing against male golfers at the Sony Open in Hawaii, a PGA Tour event, where she missed the cut by one stroke. After turning professional in 2005, Wie West made seven more PGA Tour starts through 2008.

“I’m very proud of myself,” Wie West said. “I’ve always wished I would have done more, but I feel like everyone kind of feels that way, so I’m definitely giving myself some grace and enjoying this last week.”

Injuries in part have derailed Wie West’s playing schedule significantly in recent years, and she took 2020 off for the birth of her daughter, Makennaalong with husband Jonnie Westthe director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors.

At the 2019 Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine following a nine-month break, Wie West shot an opening-round 84 and broke down in tears while addressing a handful of reporters. She then proceeded to take off the rest of the year.

Still one of Wie West’s most enduring legacies as she embarks on an extended hiatus is having contributed to expanding the profile of women’s golf to the point where the total purse at this year’s US Women’s Open is a record $ 10 million, up $ 4.5 million from last year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, with $ 1.8 million to the winner.

What does the future hold for Michelle Wie West?Chris Carlson / Associated Press

“Michelle has done some amazing things for the women’s game,” said world No. 6 Lexi Thompson, who when she was 12 became the youngest to qualify for a US Women’s Open. “Just the things that she does off the golf course, branding-wise for herself, as well, it’s inspiring. I’m happy for her. She has a family now, and I think she realizes that, like I am, there’s more important things to life than just golf. ”

Rahm aims for another shot at Memorial

Jon Rahm is ready to start over at the Memorial as tempting as it is to look back.

That last shot he hit at Muirfield Village was tapping in for par on the 18th hole that gave him a six-shot lead and a place in the tournament record book for sharing the lowest 54-hole lead. And that’s as far as he got.

Rahm was notified of a positive COVID-19 test that knocked him out of the tournament.

“I was mad for about 10 minutes,” Rahm said. “I allowed myself to be upset. But instantly, my switch flipped and I called my wife and I made sure she was OK and my son was OK. ”

Moments later, he said he was sharing a laugh with his caddy as they sipped on a milkshake. What else was there to do?

“At that moment, I chose to just remember how good I had played,” Rahm said, and that good form continued when he returned two weeks later and captured his first major in the US Open at Torrey Pines.

He returns to Memorial having won a month ago at the Mexico Open, and there is no feeling of Muirfield Village owing him anything. Patrick Cantlay wound up winning in a playoff over Collin Morikawa – oddly enough, Cantlay ended up beating Rahm again at the end of the season in the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup.

Jon Rahm sounds fired up about the chance to compete at The Memorial this week.Eric Gay / Associated Press

“It’s not like I get one more round. It’s a whole new tournament, ”Rahm said. “Is it motivation? Yes. But you know, it’s not much more added to what I already had. . . The good thing about golf is there’s always a next week and a next year. I have another chance this time. ”

Winning the Memorial is motivation enough. It is one of three PGA Tour events of elevated status that offers a $ 12 million purse and a three-year exemption. The others are the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera with Tiger Woods as the host.

Royal Bank of Canada dropped its sponsorship of Dustin Johnson after Tuesday’s surprise revelation that the two-time major winner was among the 42 golfers who will play later this month in LIV Golf’s inaugural event.

In a statement, RBC also announced it was ending its sponsorship agreement with the 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowellanother golfer who will play in the LIV event.

“As a result of the decisions made by professional golfers Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell to play the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener, RBC is terminating its sponsorship agreement with both players,” RBC said in a statement. “We wish them well in their future endeavors.”

RBC has sponsored Johnson since 2018 and he was scheduled to play in the RBC Canadian Open, which starts June 9 and takes place the same weekend as LIV Golf’s kickoff event. Johnson won the Canadian Open in 2018, and tournament organizers said in a statement they “are disappointed to learn at this late stage” that Johnson will skip this year’s tournament, the first since 2019.

Johnson’s and McDowell’s names were among 42 made public Tuesday by organizers of the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which will tee off at Centurion Club outside London from June 9 to 11. Each of the eight events scheduled this year is set to have 48 players competing for lucrative purses over 54-hole formats with team competitions, shotgun starts and no cuts.

What’s next for Dustin Johnson?Christian Petersen / Getty

Partly because of heavy investment from the Saudi Arabian regime, as well as threats of punishment by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan – particularly after incendiary comments by Phil Mickelson were published in February – most of the PGA Tour’s top names had closed ranks behind the established circuit. At that time, Johnson issued a statement in which he stated he was “fully committed to the PGA Tour.”

Ahead of May’s PGA Championship, Johnson was asked about LIV Golf’s reported interest in luring him and how he viewed the “crossroads” the sport could reach with a potential rival to the PGA Tour.

“I mean, I think golf is in a good spot,” Johnson replied. He said he thought the involvement of LIV Golf “could potentially be good for the game of golf.”

Assuming Johnson plays in the London event, he will give LIV Golf not only a jolt of star power but its highest-ranked player. The 37-year-old American is No. 13 in the world rankings.

The only other top-20 player on the list is Louis Oosthuizen, a South African who won the 2010 British Open and is ranked No. 20 in the world. As expected, many of the other big names in the LIV Golf course were European, including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Other noteworthy Americans set to join Johnson in England are Kevin Na and Talor Goochwho are in the top 35.

Not on the list was Mickelson, who has been in self-imposed exile after the firestorm over his comments.

Tour Champions player killed in car crash

Professional golfer Bart Bryant59, was killed and his 49-year-old wife, Donnwas injured when a truck slammed into their SUV while they were stopped in a line of vehicles on a central Florida roadway for a construction crew, authorities said Wednesday.

Bryant, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, was unresponsive when emergency responders in Polk City, Fla., Found him Tuesday afternoon. He was taken to a hospital where he died. His wife was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in an emailed statement.

According to the sheriff’s office, the Bryants’ SUV was stopped at the construction site near an intersection. A truck traveling in the same direction failed to see their stopped SUV and slammed into it, the sheriff’s office said.

“He was a champion on and off the course and will be dearly missed by many,” the PGA Tour Champions tweeted.

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