A mysterious golf star’s return, Michelle Wie’s footsteps, the *other* Jay Monahan | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where not a single person has ever invited us to testify before the Senate. Sigh. To the news…
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Michelle Wie West and a champ who impressed.
Michelle Wie West grew up a golf prodigy in Hawaii. At age 10 she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, breaking the record for the youngest to ever do so. She attended the Punahou School in Honolulu, where she honed her game, showcased talent and work ethic and plotted her next steps on and off the course. A Hawaii State Open win followed. Then a Curtis Cup appearance. Then college in California. An LPGA Tour card, too. And at last, a crowning achievement: A U.S. Women’s Open.
Allisen Corpuz grew up a golf prodigy in Hawaii. At age 10 she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, breaking the record for the youngest to ever do so. She attended the Punahou School in Honolulu, where she honed her game, showcased talent and work ethic and plotted her next steps on and off the course. A Hawaii State Open win followed. Then a Curtis Cup appearance. Then college in California. An LPGA Tour card, too. And at last, a crowning achievement: A U.S. Women’s Open.
On Sunday evening, some 20 minutes after she’d finished off the biggest win of her life, Corpuz addressed the media. She was asked what memories she had of U.S. Women’s Opens past. She didn’t hesistate.
“Yeah, I mean, the big one, of course, is Michelle winning in 2014 at Pinehurst,” she said. “I remember being at home and just being amazed. Yeah, just really being inspired by her.”
Their paths are remarkably similar. But Corpuz said that, wisely, she never compared herself to Wie West, who’d become Hawaiian golfing royalty by the time she’d started playing in earnest. That made sense — how could any junior golfer measure up? Sure, they each won the Hawaiian State Open. But Wie West won at age 12 — by 13 shots. At age 14 she missed a PGA Tour cut by just a single shot and had become an international sporting sensation. Even by the standards of prodigies, she was in rare territory.
Corpuz’s road to golf’s pinnacle was longer. Quieter, too. She spent four years at USC, where she led the team, won three times and earned first-team All-American honors.
“I was definitely not as smart as I am now [when I was 18], and I know I wasn’t ready,” she said Sunday, asked about the possibility of turning pro earlier.
After graduation Corpuz earned her way to the LPGA Tour the old-fashioned way, through Q-School. By the end of the 2022 season she was the owner of two podium finishes and fourth in the race for Rookie of the Year.
This began as Wie West’s week. Nine years after winning her lone major championship at this same event, the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach would be her final event. Friday night she went out in style, walking off with a 31-footer for par.
It finished as Corpuz’s week after a steady final-round performance punctuated by clutch putts when she needed ’em the most. In the end that meant a three-shot victory. It meant earning a congratulatory tweet from former U.S. President Barack Obama who, like her and like Wie West grew up at the Punahou School. That was pretty special, she said, because, “I mean, he’s done a lot in his career.”
Hers isn’t going too badly, either.
A new crew and a 62.
When Wie West won the Women’s Open in 2014, she got a check for $720,000. This year Corpuz earned $2 million as part of an $11 million total purse, largest in the history of the women’s game. Good times!
Sepp Straka put together a preposterous final round at the John Deere Classic, reeling off nine birdies and an eagle through 14 holes. Not only was the tournament win in play, 59 was, too. But then he missed a shortie for birdie at No. 17 and then overcooked a draw from the 18th fairway that missed the one place he couldn’t: the water left of the green. With one swing 59 was gone and perhaps the tournament was, too.
But much to Straka’s delight, the chase pack stalled out just shy of his winning total of 21 under par. He’s left with a check for $1.3 million, a second career PGA Tour victory, a 62 and a hell of a story.
Rasmus Hojgaard began the final round at the Made in HimmerLand six shots behind the lead. He caught the lead through 72 holes — and then took six more to outlast Nacho Elvira. The win was Hojgaard’s fourth on the DP World Tour and plants him squarely in the European Ryder Cup picture.
Cameron Smith won his second LIV event in a one-shot victory in the circuit’s return to Centurion, outside London.
I also noticed Golf Channel flash through a brief LIV highlight showing Smith’s win, which I have not noticed up to this point — although I admittedly watched more Golf Channel this weekend than usual.
Reid, Reed and Reads.
That would be Reid as in Mel Reid, who impressed during her Live From debut alongside Brandel Chamblee and Anna Whiteley Jackson. The English golfer didn’t make the Women’s Open field but made a name for herself as a commentator and leaned into complex discussions about driving distance and course setup. Here’s hoping she plays well moving forward. But if she’s looking for a change…
That would be Reed as in Patrick Reed, who finished a shot behind Smith at LIV London (despite a dramatic near-miss). The result was his fourth top-four finish this LIV season, plus a runner-up finish on the DP World Tour and a T4 at the Masters. I’m not sure Reed’s on anybody’s short list of likely captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup, but the most chaotic possible scenario would be him finishing on the podium at the Open Championship and inserting himself into that conversation.
And that would be Reads as in the putting performance of Charley Hull, who shot a final-round 66 and rolled in 135 feet of putts on the afternoon. She finished first in strokes gained putting for the week, gaining 9.046 shots on the greens with more than three of those coming on Sunday. Plus her final-hole proclamation — “shy kids don’t get sweets” — was a hell of a way to announce you’re going for the green. Kudos.
Ludvig Aberg deserves praise, too, for bouncing back from a disappointing third round at the John Deere Classic to post a Sunday 63 that vaulted him into a share of fourth place, the best result of his young career. He, too, will be in the conversation for a European Ryder Cup spot, according to captain Luke Donald.
But I’d mostly like to take a moment to acknowledge the showing of Jiyai Shin, a near-mythic character in LPGA circles. A decade ago, Shin was capping off a five-year stretch during which time she won 11 times on the LPGA Tour including two major championships. She sat at World No. 1 for 25 weeks from 2010-11, the first-ever Korean to hold that spot.
But then she left.
Shin resigned her LPGA membership ahead of the 2014 season. Her family had been through tragedy a few years earlier; she’d lost her mother in a car accident when she was 16. After a half-decade on the road, she was ready to be closer to her father and the rest of her family. So she elected to restrict her play primarily to the Korean and Japanese circuits, closer to home. Victories there have come in bunches; beginning in 2014 she won multiple times each of the next nine seasons.
This week was a reminder: the 35-year-old’s game still travels. Travels quite well, in fact. In February she traveled to Australia and won the Vic Open. That was one of three wins across tours in the first half of 2023, during which time she logged 10 top-10s in 13 starts. In the last decade, Shin had only occasionally played in other continents and hadn’t played in the U.S. since missing the cut at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open. But this week she sat at even par through two rounds before shooting 70 on Saturday and then lived up to her nickname — Final Round Queen — with the second-best score of the day.
Shin was eloquent after the round and described herself as thrilled to see how many fans she still had in the United States.
“I’m so excited about playing at Pebble Beach, and until the last hole I had fans cheering me up, and I think I had a beautiful finish. So although I did not win the championship, I’m as happy as being a champion. I think that this experience left me an indelible impression, and I’ll never forget this week.”
As for future U.S. travel — and a return to this event?
“Well, before this tournament my best finish was fifth, so this is my new record with the U.S. Open. So I think I’ll look forward to one more step up.”
Big names, big games.
It was a strange week for the top of the Rolex Rankings. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko missed the cut at a course that, on paper, would have suited her precise ball-striking quite well. World No. 2 Nelly Korda shot a final-round 80, second-highest score of the day, to finish T64. World No. 3 Lydia Ko was never a factor and finished T33. World No. 4 Lilia Vu shot 79-82 to miss the cut. It was an uneven and surprising showing for the LPGA’s biggest stars. This was a week for newer stars to shine, with LPGA rookies Bailey Tardy and Rose Zhang among those in the top 10.
Pebble Beach and Pebble’s reach.
We’re getting a little wordy already and there’s plenty of Monday Finish still to come so let’s keep this brief: Important venues elevate golf events. Listen to Corpuz:
“I mean, I think personally when I watch golf on TV it makes it so much more interesting to know the course, and I think, like you said, it helped to get us a lot of viewers this week. Especially just knowing the history. Tiger just absolutely annihilated the place.”
The fact that this week’s event was at Pebble Beach made every associated storyline that much more interesting.
As for the course itself? I found myself keyed into early-round featured group coverage to see how the course was playing. I thought, like Chamblee and Reid pointed out on Golf Channel, the par-5s played a bit one-dimensional. But I also thought tournament organizers adjusted well on the fly, moving up some tees on the weekend to set up a terrific test with a mix of birdies and bogeys.
Looper loans and homophones.
Okay, it should be “homonyms” but the rhyme was too good to pass up. I’m speaking here of Jay Monahan, caddie to Allisen Corpuz, who shares a name with the soon-to-return-to-action PGA Tour commissioner.
“I’m really excited for both of us,” Corpuz said. “He works really hard for me and he’s one of my best friends at this point probably, so just to be able to share that with him is really special.”
Monahan (this Monahan, not the commissioner) is married to a different major champ, LPGA pro Jennifer Kupcho. He and Corpuz got connected at the end of January 2022, had a “really good first week” and have been together ever since.
“I think [Kupcho] gives him some advice to pass on to me,” she said. “Yeah, just kind of has always felt like an older brother to me.”
Straka, meanwhile, won with a loaner caddie whose name — and calves — you may be familiar with. That’d be Duane Bock, longtime caddie to Kevin Kisner.
While Straka didn’t talk about his arrangement with Bock, the original plan was for Bock to loop for him at the John Deere and then again at the Open Championship. No word on whether that has changed after their victory together.
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Crews and shoes.
Monday Finish HQ has officially gotten firm and fast, which is great news for the golf courses if somewhat alarming for our upcoming fire season. I had a great outing with some good pals at West Seattle Golf Course — arguably the city’s best muni — one late evening last week. I was pleased to find a course that I’m used to playing in 45 degrees and sop had an entirely different character to it.
I also put a couple pairs of muddy sneakers (one golf, one running) through the washing machine and am amazed how much better they emerged at the end. Just thought you should know.
Links, drinks and thinks.
That’s links as in Links Golf Szn on the PGA Tour, which begins with this week’s Genesis Scottish Open and takes us into the Open Championship next week. Even though I’d love to see the pros tee it up at neighboring North Berwick, I’ll gladly settle for some coffee golf this week before I head east to join the gang for some major championship coverage next week.
That’s drinks as in me wondering how many Pimm’s Cups were consumed by Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth and their respective wives during their trip to Wimbledon last week. The American tennis contingent hasn’t fared particularly well in their trip to England — time to see if the golfers can do better.
And that’s thinks as in a trip inside the mind of Viktor Hovland, who joined me on the range at Karsten Creek in Oklahoma for a 10-minute session that turned into 40. I hope you’ll enjoy a look at his golf swing and his personality, too.
We’ll see you next week!