Sick of Wie Whiners

The Michelle Wie boo-birds come out of the woodwork every time she tees it up, and I’m sick of hearing it.

Michelle WieJoe Ogilvie may have said it best: “She’s better than Tiger was at 16. I played with Tiger, and Tiger wasn’t this good. Everybody is like, ‘Win, win, win.’ She’s 16. Chill out. Once she gets to winning, you’ll get sick of her winning.”

I’m not a raving, ranting Michelle Wie fan. I’d like to see her win a tournament. I’d like to see her learn to crush opponents. I’d like to see her spend some more time competing against her peers.

But don’t put me in the camp of Wie detractors, either, and I’m sick of hearing from those who are.

Michelle Wie is getting flagged left and right this year, her first as a professional golfer, for everything she does. She nearly throws up from heat exhaustion after playing in an LPGA major, a 36-holes-per-day LPGA match play event, and a PGA Tour event in 90° heat and the detractors want to label her a “quitter.” They use her heat exhaustion as some sort of proof that she doesn’t belong on the PGA Tour. “Play the LPGA!” they yell.

Wie detractors conveniently forget that she’s only allowed to play in six LPGA Tour events per year. She’s either not asked to be granted membership or (the smart money says) she’s been told not to bother to ask by LPGA Commissioners Ty Votaw and Carolyn Bivens (witness Bivens’ ambivalence towards getting Michelle Wie to play in her events more often). Michelle Wie is playing against the women on the LPGA Tour as often as she is allowed.

Though I would have preferred Michelle Wie remain an amateur until 17 or 18, and though I would have preferred she “learn to win” against her amateur peers, I can accept that a bird in the hand (or $10M) beats two in the bush (potential future earnings?). I can accept that Michelle Wie (and her parents) is interested in forging her own path, not listening to what others think she should do simply because “Tiger Woods did it that way.”

Michelle Wie

Consider this chart, showing the place both Michelle Wie and the not-even-up-for-discussion best women’s golfer in the world, Annika Sorenstam, finished in each of the past four women’s majors. In parentheses, the number of people that beat them, and at the end, the total.

           British       Kraft       LPGA       U.S. Open
Wie         T3 (2)       T3 (2)      T5 (4)     T3 (2) = 10
Sorenstam   T5 (4)       T6 (5)      T9 (8)     1 (0)  = 17

Clearly, the girl has talent. Yes, she’s winless to this point; she’s sixteen and Natalie Gulbis (at the ripe old age of 23) also remains winless despite showing plenty of potential, yet she suffers nowhere near the level of scrutiny Michelle Wie endures.

Many are simply bitter, however, that she’s “taking a spot from a deserving man” on the PGA Tour each time she plays (this year, three times). These complaints are silly. Sponsor’s exemptions are typically used in one of two ways: as favors (witness Arnold Palmer’s grandson getting a sponsor’s invite to the 2006 Bay Hill) or to drum up interest.

The John Deere Classic, scheduled one week before The British Open, is one of the most poorly attended events on the PGA Tour schedule. Most top-ranked players are in Europe preparing for The Open Championship. Michelle Wie’s invitation results in a win-win-win-win. The tournament wins by increasing attendance and media coverage. The local charities win with increased donations. The fans win by getting to see some unique talent. And finally, golfers win because our sport is placed atop the sports world, and not because of a drug scandal, sexual misconduct, or crime, but because a special girl has a special talent.

Michelle Wie’s PGA Tour goals may be low – “I think I can make the cut this year” she said last week, but they’re awfully lofty for a 16-year old playing on the PGA Tour. Though she’s currently batting .000 (0-for-5) many forget that Tiger was 0-for-6 and didn’t make a cut on the PGA Tour until he was 19. The experience she’s gained playing PGA Tour courses under tournament pressure will no doubt serve her well in the future. She – and others – have said “playing courses like this makes the courses on the LPGA seem easier.” I can’t argue with that logic.

Unfortunately, many feel that they can, and so they do. Each and every time the name “Michelle Wie” appears in the news, these boo-birds leap to the fore, shouting down a young girl’s efforts to make something of herself. Golf is an honorable sport, yet “fans” like these fail to bring honor to themselves.

While I may not agree with all the decisions this young girl has made, I cannot find fault in her decision to take $10M when it’s offered to her, to seize the opportunity to play tough courses when presented with the chance, nor her inordinate ability, which clearly places her near the top of the LPGA Tour already.

As Joe Ogilvie said, “Chill out. Once she gets to winning, you’ll get sick of her winning.” Chill out, folks.

Photo Credits: © The Golf Channel, © AP.

34 thoughts on “Sick of Wie Whiners”

  1. Eric: Good article stating the facts, and I’m not being facetious. However, it doesn’t mean that I have to like her or support her approach. I am not a fan of Phil, but that doesn’t mean he lacks talent or is a bad golfer. I only discovered The Sand Trap a couple of months ago, and the comments, articles, and forum keep me coming back. I think this is the best site (so far) that I’ve found where golfers can shoot the breeze. After all, at the end of the day aren’t we allowed our point of view, regardless of how wrong we may be? Just my 2cents.

  2. couldn’t write it better myself, nice to read a objective take on the hottest issue in golf 😉

  3. Mohun, the article is a reaction to the overwhelming negativity of a small but vocal minority. Again, I’m not a huge Michelle Wie fan, but I’m not a fan of people that lose perspective in favor of bashing a kid who has more (golf) talent in her left pinkie finger than they have in their entire body.

    I have a 3½-year-old daughter, and I would never tell her that she wasn’t able to do something she put her mind to, and I’d never tell her not to try to do something if she wanted to do it.

  4. Trust me, I understand. After all my 15-month old daughter’s name is Annika.

    Yes, Michelle is fully loaded with talent. I guess we all have the same end result/goal for Michelle, just different means for achieving it.

  5. “Though she’s currently batting .000 (0-for-5) many forget that Tiger was 0-for-6 and didn’t make a cut on the PGA Tour until he was 19.”

    That may be true about Tiger at the PGA Tour, but at least he was playing and winning tournaments elsewhere against his peers, like the U.S. Amateur. What is truly a shame is that Michelle Wie is an extraordinary talent who is being reduced to a mere “sideshow.”

  6. Michelle Wie’s 2006 LPGA Tour record: 5 events… 5 top-5s… $445k in earnings.

    Morgan Pressel, by comparison, who has supposedly “paid her dues” and “learned to win” on amateur tours has played:

    11 events… 2 top 5s… $225k in earnings.

    I’m with Joe Ogilvie.

  7. Since Michelle can only play in a few LPGA events a year, she chooses the elite tourneys with the best field and hardest tracks. And she still finishes in the top five. If she were a full member of the LPGA and had the opportunity to play in the other, more “ordinary” tournaments against weaker fields, she would win…….a lot. If she stays healthy and motivated, she will be playing LPGA golf for another 25-30 years. Plenty of time to rack up plenty of wins.

  8. The one thing I would be worried or critical about regarding Michelle Wie’s adventures is that she is not necessarily getting better at golf year-to-year at this point. Her physical talent is pretty much tapped out I think, she won’t be adding more distance or touch as she gets older, now its a mental evolution thing I think and in that respect she is behind Tiger Woods at a comparitive age.

    Last year she was a phenom who placed really high in LPGA events and was on the cusp of making a PGA cut. Another year later, and she is still banging away at it, running in place as it were. I am not a “Wie basher” but success breeds success as Nicklaus likes to say. Sergio Garcia is a good example of what could happen to Wie: A lot of potential, lots of hype and endorsements, but with an underdeveloped “killer instinct,” and a habit of losing/choking that handicaps serious talent and relegates it to mediocrity. I hope that doesn’t happen to Wie.

  9. I’m not against Wie, but I really believe that it is wrong to let any person turn pro in todays world unless they have finished school or have reached the age of an adult, no matter how good they are.

  10. Lonnie, what about child actors? And if you let them get paid, what about other forms of entertainment? Golf is entertainment, after all… where do you draw the line?

    TheHacker, Michelle Wie can already putt better than Sergio. I don’t think Sergio’s problem is a lack of killer instinct, but a putter that rarely works. When he putts average, he finishes high, but that’s rare.

    Tiger has improved since he came on the Tour. There’s no saying Wie can’t. I’m not saying she will, just pointing out that it’s always possible to get better at something.

  11. Erik,

    I do think Wie does have the potential to get better, but what she is doing now is re-enforcing habits that will last for some time, and losing is a bad habit. Three years is a long time between wins when competing in anything at the highest level, and I think it would help her tremendously if she could get a taste of that again.

    Criticism magnifies those things on a young mind I think. When she chipped instead of putted at I believe the Kraft Nabisco, everyone lambasted her for the poor shot decision. Now, if she had made the chip, everyone would be saying she is a genius, blah, blah. What happened to her there wasn’t fair. But without wins, over time you start thinking about what other people say for a lack of a pleasant alternative, at really bad times, like at address on the tee!

  12. TheHacker, have you really looked at Wie’s record last year and this year? Apparently not given you comments. Last year, Wie was never really in contention down the stretch. She had a couple of high finishes, but she was never in a situation where she had much of a change to win in the last 9 holes. Contrast that with this year where she has been in contention down the stretch in every stroke play women’s event she has entered. Yeah, she hasn’t won yet, but she is clearly building up to it. It is difficult for her to get the momentum when there are often very long gaps between tournaments. It’s silly to look at the one stat (wins) and say she isn’t improving. I hardly think she is reinforcing bad habits, to me she seems to get noticably better with each tournament. I find her improvement stunning.

  13. PW,

    After reading your comments about my awareness of Michelle Wie’s record (or lack thereof) I decided to look up what she’s been doing, and I don’t see anything that refutes what I am saying here.

    In 2003 she played in the final pairing at the Kraft Nabisco with Sorenstam and the winner, Meunier-Lebouc. She won the amateur Women’s Links that year as well, which was her last VICTORY in a tournament…three years ago. She has placed in the top ten of some LPGA major every year since then, including ties for 2nd and 3rd in two events last year.

    The best score she has ever shot in a PGA Tour event was 68 on her home course at the Sony Open two years ago. Given the compartitive evolutionary epoch between being thirteen and sixteen, she seems to be pretty consistent in doing exceptionally well in events she enters, but never being the best in those events. She obviously will win something, sometime, somewhere, of that I don’t think anyone has a doubt, but at this rate its going to be a Pyrrhic “victory” when she finally stumbles to a made cut on the PGA if she’s never even won on the LPGA.

    Frankly, just about any decent LPGA player has a shot at making the cut on a PGA event if her game is in form and she gets at least four or more cracks at it per year; when we talk about Michelle Wie (and the hype invested in her) we are speaking abstractly about the potential to BEAT the men, not just make the cut. But before Wie can step up to that level I think, she needs to learn how to win somewhere, somehow first. That’s what I am saying.

  14. TheHacker,

    Maybe it would help if I could show it numerically. If you look at the number of strokes back Wie was from the winner for her tournaments, you get the following by year:

    2004 16, 11, 17, 4, 13 average = 10.17
    2005 2, 7, 15, 3, 9, 8, 6 average = 7.14
    2006 1, 1, 2, 2 average = 1.5

    That certainly looks like progress to me.

    As I often hear golfers say, the way to get your first win is to keep putting yourself in contention and she is clearly doing that this year. Wins are important, but at this stage of her career, it seems to me consistance and improvement are more important. When we look back at Wie’s career in 20 years, is it really going to matter whether she got her first win at 16 or 18? As Ogilvie said, chill out!

    As far as men’s events, she clearly did better at the Deere last year than this year, but I don’t think that’s such a big deal. People forget that she made the cut by 5 shots in Korea. Yeah, it was an easier field, but she was -5 through 2 rounds on a PGA length course.

  15. The goal of golf is to win. Every golfer on tour wants to win, and frankly has the talent to win on any given tournament. Michelle Wie will never win a PGA Tour event. Never. That is my problem with her. She is playing for exposure and for the almighty dollar. Jeff Oglive can talk about entertainment all he wants, but professional golfers aren’t out there to entertain. There are out there to win. And that she ain’t gonna do.

  16. Ed, as my daddy taught me, never say never.

    btw, most PGA tour players never win a PGA event. I was watching a tournament earlier this year and the commentator said only 30 players in the field had ever had a win. Should we ban the rest? Clearly many of them have almost no chance of ever winning. The same is true with other sports. How many atheletes who go to the olympics have any chance of winning their event? Maybe 5%. The great thing about sports is they are given the chance, even thought you and I may not think they have a chance. I’m not saying Wie doesn’t have a chance to win at some point, because I think she does.

  17. I’m saying she has no chance. The women don’t hit the ball as hard, as high, don’t generate the ball spin, can’t hit it as far out of the rough, etc. Michelle was advancing the balls out of the rough last week 40-50 yards, whereas the men were still getting down near the green. I looked at the 2005 stats through Nov1 and there were 33 different winners on Tour through that point in time–excluding multiple winners. She just realistically is never going to win a PGA tournament. She just wants to make a cut…and she really just wants a big fat paycheck. It was a novelty for a couple of weeks…the novelty has worn off for a lot of people.

  18. Sure, the novelty may have worn off for some people. But not for tournament sponsors, paying members of the gallery, television networks, sportswriters, countless young fans that idolize her, and most importantly, her.

    The problem with ADD America is that we’re all in it for instant gratification and immediate results. If golf provided instant gratification and immediate results, it wouldn’t be the single most tried-then-quit sport in the world.

    Regarding Michelle Wie — she’s played in five PGA tour events. Five. Bo Van Pelt (regarded by his peers as the best PGA player without a tournament win) has played in 137 career events. He has zero runner-up finishes. And he’s built up a nest egg of close to $4.5 million, not counting endorsement deals. Yes, people out there are trying to win. But there is no shame in making cuts, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for trying to do so.

  19. Michelle Wie was 13 shots out of the lead when she missed the cut at the Sony after 2 rounds. David Toms won the thing at -19 under. Assuming she just shot 2 under golf the next two days, as that is the best she has ever shot in a PGA event, she would have finished 22 shots out of first. In a tournament she cherry picked. She was 13 shots out of first after the first round at the John Deere.

    Bo Van Pelt is not cherry picking tournaments but playing week in and week out. Wie grew up on the course that the Sony Open is played on, knows it like the back of her hand and still didn’t come close to making the cut. If she had to play week in and week out on the courses the men play on, the stats would further show she’s not even in the league of Bo Van Pelt and she’d never make 3 top tens, let alone compete. (The fact he has made 3 top tens is proof enough that he competitive.)

    As far the $$, I have no problem with Wie coming out and saying she wants to play the PGA because she wants a ton of money. Just be honest about it. And then go back to the LPGA where she stands a chance of being the greatest women’s golfer who ever played the game.

  20. Ed — Did you even read the article?

    “…Go back to the LPGA…” She plays LPGA events as often as she’s allowed given her status.

    Now you’re criticizing because you say she’s not being honest about her true intentions playing on the PGA tour — that’s she’s only in it to make a ton of money.

    At the John Deere Classic, the last player to make the cut made $7200. That’s just “walking around” money given her endorsement deals and future earning potential.

    When she states her intentions of “just” wanting to make the cut, I see that as honesty about her current abilities as she sees them. She knows her game is not good enough to win on the PGA tour.

  21. Ed,

    That’s a pretty slanted analysis. You take her worst two PGA outings and extrapolate from them that she has no chance of ever winning. It’s a good thing you weren’t advising Tiger after his first few PGA tries since he had a worse record than Wie. You would have told him to give up on golf and take up bowling. I’m not saying Wie will be better than Woods, but there’s no way you can make such a sweeping judgement about Wie from the Sony and Casio this year.

    By the way, she did not “grow up” on the Sony Open course. She only played it at the Sony Open until recently when she was given unlimited access.

  22. Well, I had to use the two tournaments I used because those are the only two she played. She plays the Waialae Country Club at least five times a week when school is in (her words) so it’s as close as you can get. She will never have the Tiger mentality of closing out tourneys because she has done it once, about 2-3 years ago.

    As far as playing on the LPGA, she could have just stayed an amateur a while longer and tried winning there. That was her choice.

    And in talking about the money, I was talking about endorsements. I mean, that is the reason she turned pro in the first place, so she could snag her endorsement $$. Ain’t nothing wrong with it, but …

    Did anyone see the round table on the golf channel. They all pretty much said the same thing. She doesn’t have the game to win on the PGA and she’d be in the bottom 5-10 in driving distance if she had to play week in and week out on the PGA.

  23. They also pointed out in that round table, Ed, that she wasn’t taking a spot from anyone and that it made sense for tournament sponsors to give her exemptions into the tournaments.

  24. To be only 16 and play at the level she’s playing at right now is simply amazing. I think the majority of the whinners are just jealous that a 16-year old girl can kick their butt.

  25. The following quote sums up why Michelle Wie is such a great golfer.

    “Even the best golfers lose more tournaments than they win.” – Bob Rotella

  26. The following quote just sums up my opinion; it’s by Brittany Linicome.

    Q. As a long hitter, do you consider at all the possibility of playing against the men and why or why not?

    BRITTANY LINICOME: Like people have said out here, if you can’t beat Annika, you don’t need to go play an another tour. If you’re not No. 1 on this tour, you don’t need to go on to another tour.

  27. Ed, as has been pointed out, Michelle Wie has beaten Annika regularly (and in big events.) The latter part about being #1 on the LPGA Tour doesn’t relate to Michelle very well since she can’t play many LPGA Tour events. Were she able to, she may very well top the money list.

  28. Ed, she is 16 years old. There’s not too many 16 year old kids, male or female, that would crack the top 55 in driving distance on the PGA tour. There are not any 16 year olds, to my knowledge, even contemplating making the cut in a mens event on the PGA tour, except for Wie.

    Of all the 16 year old I have seen, live and in person on the golf course, she certainly DOES have the swing speed, ball flight, etc. necessary to play at the PGA level….

  29. Here is my opinion on the whole PGA and LPGA issue. Why not just disband the LPGA and open the PGA for men and women equally, if you make the cut your in, if not go home. Pretty simple. I think that would be great. I would love to see Annika and Tiger play each other. It would be great for the sport. However, if a man actually says that the LPGA should be disbanded he’s considered sexist. So why not then keep both the LPGA and the PGA but allow men and women to crossover into each league? No, because that would be sexist. O.K. then, why not stop all crossover? Women stay in LPGA and men stay in PGA? No, because that is sexist? Where is the logic? I firmly believe in the first senario. Sure a lot of pro women would drop off, but so would a lot of pro men as well. The fans would get to see the true best of the best at every outing. Not just the best of the men or just the best of the women. Just my two cents worth.

  30. I’ve just found this thread. I use to think Michelle was mad to do the things she did but having read Erik’s column, I cannot but agree to give her a chance to grow into the phenomenal golfer her God-given talents allow.

    Unfortunately, the wrist injuries she suffered in 2007 has now put her further back (at 18) than when she was 16. We can only speculate if those injuries stemmed from trying to “keep up” with the men in driving distance, etc. If so, then playing with the men has done Michelle a great disservice.

    In any case, let’s see if she heals properly, finds her “old” golf swing, and can start to fulfil some of the vast potential everyone sees in her. If so, all of this banter will be confined to history. If not, what a shame. Just as we did with Tiger in the past 10 yrs, we golf fans want nothing more than to watch potential come to fruition, so we can be awed by it.

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