Tour Confidential: A new major winner, Michelle Wie’s legacy, LPGA yardages
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss Allisen Corpuz’s U.S. Women’s Open win, Michelle Wie’s legacy, LPGA par-5 yardages and more.
American Allisen Corpuz shot 69 in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, finishing at nine under overall and besting Charley Hull and Jiyai Shin by three. It’s the first career victory for the 25-year-old pro. What stuck out to you about her triumph?
Josh Berhow, managing editor (@Josh_Berhow): She missed two fairways all day, which at a U.S. Women’s Open is the key to keeping yourself in it, and while she only hit 11 greens her proximity to the hole ranked 5th. But those are just stats. If you watched, she just looked so composed for someone who had never won on the LPGA. Her pre-shot routine was deliberate, but it also looked relaxed, like she was playing a practice round. She wasn’t afraid of the moment. Impressive stuff.
Jack Hirsh, assistant editor (@JR_HIRSHey): Her game was absolutely unflappable on the back nine Sunday. She was missing it where she had to and making all of the putts she needed to. It was a fairly boring round, but that’s the type of golf that wins majors, specifically, U.S. Opens. She played Pebble’s harder side, the back which played completely into the win, three under for the week while the rest of the field averaged more than two strokes over each round. It’s also quite a good recipe for winning when she was No. 1 in proximity for the week and No. 6 in strokes gained: putting (Thanks Shotlink!).
Jonathan Wall, managing equipment editor (@jonathanrwall): I’m with Josh and Jack. To look that relaxed on the back nine at a major — playing at Pebble Beach(!!!) — was crazy impressive. And it just so happened to be her first win. The best golfers in the world are nearly impossible to beat when they are hitting it close and making putts. She managed to do both all week, even when the pressure was cranked up on Sunday. I fully expected Charley and Jiyai to get an opening — and it didn’t happen. Her impressive all-around performance makes the win that much sweeter.
While Corpuz had her big moment on Sunday evening, Michelle Wie West had her time on Friday, making a long putt for par on the 18th hole and essentially saying goodbye to professional golf for good. What kind of legacy will Wie West leave behind?
Berhow: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say most people, probably herself included, thought she would have won more, but one of those five victories was a U.S. Women’s Open (and at Pinehurst No. 2!), and no one can ever take that one away. I also can’t imagine the pressure she dealt with and the stress she felt trying to meet everyone else’s expectations of her. She was constantly in the spotlight. Yet despite the win total, her impact was still massive. She brought eyeballs to the game — both when she played with the men and on the LPGA Tour — and inspired countless young girls to pick up the sport. I’ve always thought a good way to measure the star power of a player is if their name alone was enough for you to open up a leaderboard on your phone and search specifically for their position. That’s something you did for Tiger. Something you still might do for people like Rory, Brooks or Spieth. You’d do that for Wie, too. Wins for them are big. And her impact on the sport is by no means over. She’s the brand ambassador of the Mizuho Americas Open, which is one of the coolest new events on any pro tour. Wie West hasn’t been a regular on the LPGA Tour for a couple of years now, but her presence will definitely be missed.
Hirsh: I don’t think the story of her legacy has been written yet. I saw pictures of her wearing a bucket hat, joggers, high-top golf shoes and a big Nike logo across her sweatshirt earlier in the week. I thought to myself, “Michelle Wie just has a swag that really no one else has.” The game totally needs more of that. It’s likely, now that she has stepped away completely from competing, she can focus more on growing the game through her hosting the Mizuho as Josh mentioned, through her relationship with Nike, etc. Even in retirement, Michelle Wie still has the power to change the game for the better and that might be more of her lasting legacy than what she ever accomplished on the course.
Wall: I think her legacy is in all of the young Tour pros who likely used her as the measuring stick growing up. She gave women’s golf a coolness factor with a fresh swagger that helped take the LPGA to new heights. Some will point to the fact she only won 5 times during her career and say she fell short of the lofty expectations that were bestowed upon her at a young age. Playing in a PGA Tour event at 14 will do that to you. Instead of focusing on the playing resume, I choose to look at all the girls she helped introduce to the sport. Without Wie West, I don’t think the LPGA Tour is in the place it is today.
Brandel Chamblee and LPGA player Mel Reid, on Golf Channel’s Live From, expressed their frustration with par-5s being too long on the LPGA Tour (and at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open). Reid called it frustrating, while Chamblee said it robs the tour of that added excitement. Do they have a point? And why hasn’t there been a change?
Hirsh: Yes, I think they totally have a point. If the best (and longest) men in the world can reach the 18th at Pebble Beach in two regularly, why shouldn’t the best (and longest) women in the world do the same? The reason nothing has been done about it is because there could be a fear that if courses are too short, it would discredit the setup. This game is obsessed with length and shortening courses is counterintuitive. However, the women’s game isn’t seeing the dramatic distance games the men’s game has. I do take issue with Brandel’s idea that we should shorten holes based on the gap between the shortest and longest players on the PGA and LPGA tours — it should be based on the percentage gap. If the longest LPGA player hits it 85% as far as the longest PGA Tour player, then that’s how long the par-5s should be. To give you an example, if we use 85 percent, Pebble’s 18th, regularly reachable on the PGA Tour at 540 yards and playing around 510 this week, should be playing around 460 yards.
Berhow: It would definitely make tournaments more exciting, but it’s not like the men made dozens and dozens of eagles here during the 2019 U.S. Open. They made 28 on three par-5s, while this year the women made 16 on four of them. A big difference was the closing hole, where the men made six eagles to the women’s one. So, yes, let’s find the right distance where being able to go for the green in two is possible but not a norm. I don’t have much of a problem with how the course played this week.
Wall: It’s a great question. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a couple short par-5s to entice players to take a chance. When you stretch the holes to the point where they are essentially a three-shotter for nearly everyone in the field, it makes them bland and straightforward. Then again, did we really expect the USGA to throw the players a bone? It’s the U.S. Women’s Open. On the LPGA Tour, I think it’s something they should strongly consider for regular events. But I’m not sure the same rules (or course setup) should apply for a major.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Brooks Koepka, the team captain of LIV Golf’s Smash GC, ripped teammate Matthew Wolff, saying “I’ve basically given up on him. A lot of talent, but I mean the talent’s wasted.” Wolff has struggled much of the last handful of months, and he withdrew prior to the final round in a May event in which he was 46th out of 48 players. What are your thoughts on Koepka’s harsh public criticism?
Berhow: Saying you have given up on someone is a pretty strong statement, and adding a jab about wasted talent is like adding salt to the wound. I won’t act like I’m in the Smash GC inner circle here and know what goes on, but I also can’t help but think of Wolff’s two-month leave from the game in 2021 due to mental health issues when reading these comments. It’s weird, because in a way, isn’t this the type of controversy that was supposed to make LIV Golf’s team format compelling? Teams fighting, arguing, changing players, etc. We don’t see that in 72-hole individual stroke-play events. Koepka could also have been trying to motivate Wolff, still just 24, who hasn’t finished in the top 30 in his last six events, but this certainly wasn’t very subtle.
Hirsh: Yikes! I thought the team aspect was supposed to make LIV more fun? Can’t really fault Brooks for calling out his teammate who contributes to his interests. I have to imagine this was some way of trying to light the fire under Wolff, but Wolff’s response would seem to indicate otherwise. Extremely unexpected sequence for sure.
Wall: Golf is an individual sport. Yes, they are on the same team. But everyone has to pull their weight. Wolff wasn’t and Brooks called him out. I’ll latch onto what Jack say and choose to believe it was his way of getting Wolff to refocus. It ended up having the opposite effect and became a headline. Wolff earned a fat check when he signed with LIV, so I’m not sure he’s losing sleep over Brooks’ comments.
Cameron Smith won LIV Golf’s London event on Sunday, meaning he’ll head into his Open Championship defense a week from now coming off a victory. If you are taking one LIV player to win The Open, is he your guy?
Berhow: I think Cam Smith is in a really good spot entering Hoylake, so I would say the answer to this is yes. After winning The Open last year he won his second LIV event two months later, but he had a pretty sleepy stretch after that to end 2022 and begin 2023. He had just one top 20 in a five-start span, and he wasn’t particularly impressive at the Masters. But in his last six LIV starts since Augusta, he hasn’t finished worse than 12th, and he top-10’d in both the PGA and U.S. Open. I also think, for a guy like Cam, who is in his prime, he’s going to have no trouble getting motivated for majors, especially since the LIV fields aren’t as good as top PGA Tour stops. That said, Dustin Johnson has quietly finished in the top 10 in each of his last two Open appearances and could be in line for another good finish two weeks from now.
Hirsh: No. If I’m taking a LIV guy, it’s Brooks and it’s really not a hard decision for me.
Wall: I’d love to see an in-form Cam Smith attempt to go back-to-back at the Open, but I think the only answer here is Brooks Koepka. Once again, he’s a man on a mission at the majors. You’d be crazy to pick anyone else on the LIV roster at the moment.