Her performance was not quite as masterful as Martin Kaymer’s but it was extremely skillful nonetheless. She was dominating throughout. Yes, Michelle Wie finally won her first of hopefully many majors, and did so at famed Pinehurst No. 2. It has not been what one might call an easy journey for someone many of us thought would have five or six majors in her trophy case by now, but it’s now been a successful one.
When Wie burst onto the scene what seems like fifteen years ago, she looked for all the world that she was going to dominate women’s golf. She had distance – according to many reports she could hit it farther than many of the men she was playing with. (As a side note, I think much of that was nonsense created by the press.) She could play.
After many years of trying, then turning pro way too soon, and a college career that was not spent on the college golf team, I for one thought she had lost her passion for the game and may fade away into golf oblivion. The early part of her career is the perfect outline for how to destroy a young golfer’s career. Her parents are to blame for this mismanagement.
Then, the early part of this year she has been the hottest golfer on the planet. A second-place finish at the season’s first major (to fellow phenom Lexi Thompson), then a win in front of her hometown fans in Hawaii, and now the Women’s U.S. Open trophy.
It seems to me that the pinnacle of women’s golf is a very hard place to stay. The number one ranking turns over more often than the crown in the Game of Thrones. Change, it seems, is not only inevitable, but routine. Consider who the leading lady has been since Annika was on top in the late nineties. Annika reigned for the longest but her career was cut short by a nagging neck injury and she seems to now be more interested in teaching and talking about golf on television. Lorena Ochoa then held the tag and she ruled for a few years until she married a very rich man and wanted to start a family. Then Yani Tseng won a bunch of tournaments and seems to have lost her game. Stacey Lewis and InBee Park seem now to trade back and forth with no clear winner.
Point being that women’s golf has been missing a leading lady, really since Annika. Michelle has shown in the past few months that she has the capability to be that leader. I still feel she lacks a killer instinct because I think when forced to go head to head in the final round with a very strong player she will struggle. The Kraft showed us that Lexi is a pretty tough competitor. She stared right at Michelle and did not back down. I think years of playing with older siblings made Lexi a pretty tough head-to-head competitor. Michelle is going to need to learn how to play tougher in those types of situations. I get the sense that her personality is not one of confrontation. More of an artistic type of person that enjoys watching others have their success as much as she enjoys winning herself.
When she is in more comfortable situations where she been able to build herself a lead going into the last eighteen or nine holes she seems comfortable enough to be able to close the deal. Elite athletes one that dominate the game and have the talent to do so like Tiger are rare. Michelle strikes me as more a normal person with tons of talent but without the killer instinct. I don’t see anything wrong being this type of person. She can still win boatloads of majors but when faced with someone who is built tough like Lexi she is likely to struggle. She can still win against a golfer like Lexi but those will be the exception.
Michelle has been through some very tough scrutiny and now appears ready to take on the challenges now that the dust has settled on her past. She has a story the press is going to love. A superhero who falls on hard times but dusts herself off and once again becomes a champion. In this case she was not a champion to start, but her talent was so good that many had given her the title of champion. Still women’s golf can no doubt use a story like this, heck any sport would like a story like this. Add to this the fact that Michelle seems like a pretty nice person and she has the capability to rule the women’s game for many years to come.
Michelle now seems like she is coming into her own person, and is no longer mismanaged by her parents. It is easy to blame her parents for all the early mistakes but there are no blueprints for how to manage your child’s talent. I am sure they tried their best, or at least thought they were doing the right things. It is easy for us to look now and say that they made mistakes. But now that is all in the past hopefully other parents who have such talented children will learn from the mistakes Michelle’s parents made and young golfers like Michelle will bloom earlier in their career. We are already seeing that with Lydia Ko and Lexi herself. For now, let’s hope Michelle can continue her great run.
Photo credits: © Benny Sieu.