Apparently Michelle Wie needs to keep a copy of the Rules of Golf handy in her golf bag. Or perhaps she needs to start calling rules officials over when she feels unsure of her decisions. Either way the newly crowned darling of supergiants Nike and Sony learned an important lesson after her disqualification this past Sunday at the Samsung World Championship: even if you think you're sure of the rules, ask an official!
Wie learned this lesson the hard way but it's one she will never forget. Aside from the fact that it cost the Hawaiian $53,126 and a fourth place finish this week (a mere pittance from the amount she will be receiving from the two industry giants), it also shows her game and mental attitude to be a bit amateurish. But let's give her some slack… she just turned sixteen!
The first person to realize that there may have been an infraction was a Sports Illustrated writer who made NBC Sports review the tape. Apparently he too was watching Michelle Wie very intently possibly waiting for her to slip up. After watching the tape Wie was brought back to the scene of the infraction (the seventh hole of the Canyons Course) struggling to remember where her ball landed after her drop from a gold Lantana bush. Although Wie took a penalty drop from an unplayable lie she still wound up with par.
Michelle was then led into a room of photograph hounds and golf columnists all looking for answers. The frenzy surrounding Wie became a media circus Sunday after the tournament. This whole debacle took place just ten minutes after she had signed her scorecard but Wie remained gracious and attempted to maintain her composure in spite of the verbal onslaught.
The press was hoping for emotion from the 16-year-old (it's good press to watch a kid cry) and got it. "I'm pretty sad but, you know, I think I'm going to get over it. I learned a lot from it. It's obviously not the way I wanted to begin it but, you know, it's all right," said a visibly shaken young girl who just DQed in her professional debut.
Then the grilling began. First a question about where the ball was in relation to where Wie should have dropped it. "Like three inches. It was yesterday, it's not like it was from today. It's from yesterday. It was all guesswork where the ball was, where the ball was yesterday, where the ball was originally in the bushes. So it was basically all guesswork."
But also in an childish way Wie contested, "I mean it was only three inches." Well Michelle, whether it was three inches or three feet you still have to keep to the rules that govern your sport. She was visibly frustrated but attempted to keep her composure. Learning how to deal with the press now in these situations will help the youngster keep her composure when the going really gets tough.
LPGA Rules Official Robert Smith then laid out the Rules of Golf plain and simple for everyone, "Well, rules of golf provide that if you take relief from an unplayable lie measuring two club lengths you can't go closer to the hole. Well, unfortunately, this ball ended up being played about 12 to 15, 18 inches closer to the hole than where the ball originally lay."
Smth went on to say, "Because of that, because she had played that ball from that position yesterday she played from a wrong place and violated Rule 20-7 which is: Playing the ball from a wrong place. The penalty for that is two strokes. She didn't put that on her scorecard for the 7th hole, so therefore she had a scorecard of two strokes less on that hole."
There were two rules that governed the decision. The second rule, Rule 6, states "that if you sign your scorecard with a score lower than you actually made on the hole, you're disqualified. Unfortunately, that's what happened and that's it in a nutshell" stated Smith.
An interesting question was related to the three or more drops that Wie had taken during this tournament without the help of rules officials. Did Michelle think that she knew what she was doing out there or was she just trying to "wing it" hoping that her decisions were correct?
"I mean I've been through so many unplayables," said a disgruntled Wie. "I've been in a lot of water hazards before so you know, I know. I know what to do. I don't feel like I cheated or anything. I felt like, you know, I was honest out there. And, you know, it's what I felt like I did right. I was pretty happy out there with what I did. If I did it again I would still do that because it looked right to me."
On Wieblog.com bloggers are attempting to disseminate the information they have collected about this weekend and even convincing themselves that Wie wasn't at fault. Reader Kris Corbridge stated that Rule 34-1 in the USGA's Rules of Golf conflicts with the ruling of the officials, "that a player can only be disqualified after a competion has been completed if the incorrect score was not due to a penalty stroke for which the player was not aware prior to the close of the tournament." Since no one had questioned the drop prior to Wie signing her card, Wie should not have been DQed. What do you think?
In defense of a youngster who could use a bit of positive press I say that there have been others who have made infractions leading to a DQ. For example, Paula Creamer recently removed one golf club from her bag and exchanged it for another the night before she was to finish a round called on account of rain. Although DQed and a bit disgruntled it didn't stop Paula from returning to play at the Samsung and taking solo second place.
Photo Credit: © AP Photo/Reed Saxon.