God bless Michelle Wie for pursuing her dream of playing in a men`s major. Is there any doubt that she will, one day soon, accomplish her goal? But what happened earlier this week proved, once again, that the object of the game is not to get the ball on the green in the fewest strokes but to get the ball in hole in the fewest strokes. Tiger`s dad taught him the game from the green out. What was BJ Wie thinking with Michelle? Is she his daughter or his meal ticket? Oops, I digress. I was talking about David Leadbetter here.
Butch Harmon, Rick Smith. Jim Flick. Dave Pelz. David Leadbetter. They are the Big Five. They top every list of the best golf instructors in America. Each has his own stable of famous players on his resume. Everyone knows that Smith and Pelz have worked with Phil and the results are irrefutable. Jim Flick is Jack Nicklaus` long time friend and teacher “ enough said. And although Butch Harmon continues to have to explain his split with Tiger years ago, he has been able to maintain a large cadre of students on the pro tour (none of which he takes a dime from “ or so he claims in a recent article).
And then there`s David Leadbetter. For years he has been the guru of the perfect swing. He has given us drills and explained in great detail the benefits of getting into Å“the slot. But recently two of his higher profile players are taking the big stick out of David`s hands. Charles Howell III has long been touted as Å“the next big thing. He`s a small guy that can pound the ball a mile but he can`t win tournaments. Winning tournaments means putting the ball into the hole.
Which brings us to Michelle Wie. If she had made just half of the birdie putts in her Monday round she would have qualified for the Men`s U.S. Open making history this year rather than next, or the year after.
On Tuesday, Michelle`s father BJ told the press that his daughter spent Monday night bawling like a baby. Did he tell the world this information to remind us that she`s a 16 year-old girl? If so, shame on him to think that we need to be reminded. Pundits spent most of their post round coverage criticizing Michelle`s putting. Did he want to protect her from the criticism? If so, he should have taken her to a coach that could help her get the ball in the hole rather than focusing on the long ball as much as they clearly have. Maybe Michelle was crying because she didn`t get in to the U.S. tournament. Maybe she was crying because Leadbetter hasn`t done a good enough job of teaching her the most important discipline of the game. Maybe she was crying because her dad is such a crappy caddie.
If Michelle Wie wins this week`s LPGA McDonald`s tournament all will be forgiven and she can continue her quest until the next stumble. But if she ends up out of the Top 5 will it be her flat stick that lets her down again? If so, will the spotlight of criticism turn from Michelle Wie`s game to David Leadbetter`s teaching methods?
Lookout David, Hank Haney is waiting in the wings to join the Big Five!