Friday, June 01, 2007

It's not so easy being the big 'Wiesy'

Michelle Wie seems intent on proving it’s not easy being a teenager.

The latest chapter of teen angst came Thursday when the 17-year- old Wie suddenly withdrew late in her first round in the Ginn Tribute at RiverTowne Country Club in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

The official reason for her withdrawal after 16 holes was that she “tweaked” the wrist injury that sidelined her from competition since January when she missed the cut in the PGA Tour’s Sony Open by 14 strokes.

She had certainly played as if something were wrong, making a triple-bogey on a par-3 and a quintuple bogey 10 on an easy par-5 where her first tee shot literally went down a storm drain on a neighborhood street.

Wie’s game is obviously not as sharp as it once was – she hasn’t broken par in a women’s event since last summer – but it’s not as bad as what was on display Thursday morning.

Walking eight holes with Wie, I saw her hit one spectacular shot – an approach shot to within a foot of the hole at the 18th.

Otherwise, she continually lost tee shots to the right (except for a wickedly ugly hooked second tee shot at the disastrous par-5 third where she made 10), was usually shorter off the tee than her playing partners and rarely hit a shot that sounded crisp.

That’s not the Michelle Wie who has six top-five finishes in major championships.

It was so bad that Wie was flirting with losing her privileges on the LPGA Tour this year. Because Wie is not an official tour member, she would have been disqualified from further competition this year had she posted a score of 88 or higher Thursday.

When she withdrew Thursday, she was 14-over par with two watery holes to play. Two pars would get her in at 86. In other words, there was little margin for error.

Wie seemed surprised when her manager, Greg Nared, stopped her as she walked to the eighth tee (her 17th) Thursday. She seemed intent on finishing her round, but Nared and Wie’s parents had been talking for a couple of holes and Nared had been on the phone with LPGA officials.

They knew the 88-stroke rule was in play and there’s no way Wie could post a number that would essentially gut her season before it started. She would have been able to play in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles and the Women’s British Open because she had qualified for those events run by different organizations.

Otherwise, her remaining LPGA starts this year would have been zapped. Wie isn’t making multi-millions from Nike and Sony and others to sit at home. If you were managing Wie’s career, you’d have made the same decision allowing for the fact she hadn’t played in almost four months while letting her wrists heal.

There was more at stake than one tournament. Michelle Wie is a business and a brand as much as she’s a golfer.

It has not been easy for Wie. Though players publicly say they like her playing in LPGA events because of the attention she brings, tour insiders will tell you there’s an undercurrent of animosity among some players toward her.

Wie has chosen a unique path, testing herself in men’s events while playing only a few women’s events (she’s limited to seven per year on the LPGA Tour until she becomes a member). She is winless in 34 starts in women’s events and has never made the cut in a PGA Tour or European Tour men’s event.

She has had rules violations in competition and one of her playing partners, Janice Moody, questioned during Thursday’s round whether Wie’s father, B.J., had offered her advice after she hit a ball into trouble on her first nine holes.

She said swing coach David Leadbetter was “misquoted” last month when he said Wie would not continue playing against the men. Leadbetter was not misquoted – he said so this week - and was just kept out of the loop on Wie’s plans and, therefore, made to look foolish.

Wie left the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic on a stretcher last summer after the heat wore her down and the public fascination of her efforts against the men has begun to dull.

Now she pulls out of Annika Sorenstam’s tournament citing injury but says she expects to play the LPGA Championship next week, knowing what she needs to work on in her swing.

It all looked so easy a year or two ago.

But now, it’s not so easy being the big Wiesy.

Ron Green Jr.


Anonymous said...

Wie may be good for golf as far as Nike is concerned, but as far as the game itself, she's an abomination. I hope she is the end of the greed that pro golf has become.

Anonymous said...

Few years back, everyone thinks she is the Tiger Woods of the LPGA... but the way the PEOPLE AROUND her messed her up, her career is on a steep downfall. I hope she can get back up... i feel sorry for her.

Anonymous said...

She's a rotten spoiled brat with an insane father and mother. She's a liar and phony. The people she has surrounded herself with are liars and phonies. She's not nearly as good as has been advertised--after all, there have been 17-year-olds who have won on the LPGA tour. The fact that she can hit a drive 280 means absolutely nothing--like many women golfers, her short game sucks. I can't wait for her to turn 18--hopefully at that point the gutless golf writers won't be so hesitant to tell the truth about this 'abomination'.

Anonymous said...

Replied to the previous rotten comments.
She sure is not a rotten spoiled brat...she is only a kid that wanted to have some fun. Have your mother and father ever done even only half of Wie's mother and father done for their kids? They are not insane, but you are.

Anonymous said...

It's true that her parents really did a lot for her... but that doesn't mean that they did the right thing for her... they(including her mngr) pushed her too much and now her game is a complete disaster... she just a kid and did not deserve that much pressure...BTW, i'm not the one that said "rotten spoiled brat". :)

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that she's a talent that's slowly going to waste. First, she continues to take the wrong path. Tiger may have used a handful of exemptions for experience, but he wisely did not turn professional until he had won 3 US amateurs, and combined with the 3 juniors, he knew he could win...Michelle doesn't. I also feel the multi million dollar sponsorships have overwelmed her to a point where her priorities are no longer in line. Plus, with the manager, agents, parents, etc....just two many voices talking at once, steering her in their own direction. Again, lacking the focus of Woods to see past the voices and the money, and just concetrate on playing championship golf. I firmly believe that major changes need to be made on her part, because right now...she is no good for the game of golf.

Anonymous said...

Let's all simmer down, now. MW is a 17 year old girl, playing a game she (hopefully still)loves. As a former athlete, I admire her ambition to become the best player she can be by testing herself against the best players in the world, even though this may not be the best way for her to win tournaments, or even reach her full potential. Are her parents too pushy? Maybe. Meanwhile, she has already successfully provided for the financial security of her family, for now and for generations to come. Worst case, she suffers as Jennifer Capriati did. She will be an adult soon enough and will find her own way eventually. Good Luck, Michelle!

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to see the vitriol aroused in some people on the subject of Michelle Wie. Michelle may be guilty of coming back too soon and then having to make a very difficult decision, one with no good outcomes in the PR sense. Annika is correct, Michelle demonstrated a questionable degree of class . . . or rather her team did. But she is still learning how to be classy (including how to control her "team"), difficult for those long on talent combined with "handlers", media, and adoring fans eager to be a part of the impossible/improbable.

All of us who watch have a hand in Michelle's situation; we all contributed in some small way. Why don't we let her do what she has to do, experience the ups and downs that she must and let her undergo the sometimes painful experience of learning to be a champion. If you watch her on camera and on course, it is quite clear that she has the means and the mind to become as classy a champion as any other we admire.

Anonymous said...

I am sick of hearing about this over hyped loser. Has she ever actually won an event on the LPGA? Has she ever made the cut in any of the men's tourneys she has scammed her way into? How has she earned the amount of attention she gets? She is just the latest in the long line of over hyped, ESPN promoted, "cultural" athletic phenoms. Reminds me of Danica (sp?) Patrick, just another annoying "the girls can play with the boys!" pipe dream athlete. No substance to her whatsoever. By the way, she's 17 now, aren't there several people on the LPGA around her age that have actually won tourneys and proved their worth? Let's talk about them maybe? Also, she is not even the least bit attractive so let's not act like that's why she is so talked about. Now Natalie Gulbis, that's that a different story!