June 27, 2007 (UPDATE: 11 AM PST; June 28)–It's the best and worst of the golf world in the 8:06 AM pairing at Pine Needles at this week's US Womens Open. The pairing includes media darling Natalie Gulbis, and current media punching bag Michelle Wie. Gulbis seemingly never does anything wrong, and is loved by everyone and rightly so. The Lake Las Vegas resident spends the neccesary time doing and saying the right things, and her image typifies who she is as a person. Gulbis is one of five golfers in the field who have strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses. On the other end of the spectrum right now is Wie, who is quickly spiraling out of control. First round UPDATE: Gulbis fires 74; Wie fires 82.
She isn't saying or doing much right these days, and her game is more like a college freshman on the intramural curcuit than the LPGA Tour sensation that she was just months ago. The only similarities between Gulbis and Wie right now are that they both have recently withdrawn from tour events.
Gulbis really was hurting with a bad back when she withdrew from both the Ginn Tribute and the Wegmans LPGA, while it is widely speculated that Wie only withdrew from the Ginn because she was on her way to shooting at least a round of 88, meaning that she wouldn't be eligible for any other LPGA Tour events in 2007. Wie's injury was to her wrist, but she told the assembled media at the Open that it is getting better.
"It's doing a lot better. I feel like it's getting better every day," Wie said. "I have good days, and I've had bad days. Some days it doesn't hurt. Some days it hurts. I'm just taking it day-by-day. But I'm trying to get it stronger. I'm working on it really hard to make it stronger, because over the last five months it's been in a cast and splint, and not playing, I lost a lot of strength in the wrist. I've been gripping everything I can find, gripping thin air, balls, gripping grippers, just trying to get my grip strength back. I'm working on it and feel like it's getting better."
Official Las Vegas Golf Package information … now.
Gulbis is joined by the following other Las Vegas golfers who are in the field: Jennie Lee, an amateur from Las Vegas who is playing in the Open in the same state as her college (Duke); Erica Blasberg, who plays out of Las Vegas golf course TPC Canyons; Charlotte Mayorkas, a two-time winner on the Futures Tour and a four-time All-American at UCLA, who recently moved to Las Vegas; and In-Bee Park, Las Vegas resident who turned professional in 2006, but who beat Wie in the 2004 US Amateur.
Gulbis is hoping to at least replicate her past two US Womens Open finishes at Pine Needles. In 2005 she battled for the championship before finishing in a tie for 4th while last year she finished in a tie for 16th. Gulbis lives on the fairways and greens of Las Vegas golf course Reflection Bay Golf Club.
Las Vegas golfer Park, whose sister In-ah qualified for the US Women's Amateur Public Links, could be a future star. She was the 2002 American Junior Golf Association Rolex Player of the Year, and she won the 2002 US Girls Junior Championship.