The Cirque du Wie ends with a fizzle: The time has come to pack up teen's travelling big top

Since the teen dream fumbled again in the second LPGA major of the year, I thought it warranted the printing of my column from the Post last week. It garnered some letters to the editor, which is unusual for a golf column…

Robert Thompson On Golf
National Post

The Michelle Wie sideshow pulled into a suburban New Jersey golf course yesterday and left as expected — with failure and with diminishing credibility. In this case, it wasn’t the John Deere Classic that Wie was trying to qualify for — it was the U.S. Open next week at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

The teen phenom managed to make it through regional qualifying, but getting past the 36-hole sectional tournament, which included the likes of Masters and British Open winner Mark O’Meara, PGA Championship winner Mark Brooks, U.S. Amateur champ Ricky Barnes and Canadian Jon Mills, was a long shot.

As has been the case with Wie for most of the past year, the hype overshadowed her abilities. In a circus-like atmosphere where the PGA Tour had a writer post live blogs about her round and where the Canoe Brook Country Club had to close its gates because the course was being flooded by observers, the 16-year-old Wie fought to secure one of 18 spots that would gain her entry into the U.S. Open. It was a task only the overly optimistic felt she could pull off.

It didn’t take long for her inexperience and inability to deal with pressure to lead to cracks in her game. While her morning round went largely well, with Wie finishing at 2-under, her short game abilities clearly need to be improved.

At the Kraft Nabisco Championship at the start of April, Wie had the championship within her grasp only to let it slip out of her grasp with a poor chip and two questionable putts.

In her first round yesterday, she missed seven putts from within 12 feet. In the afternoon session, with more experienced players surging up the leaderboard and Wie trying to force the issue, a string of three straight bogeys ended her much-discussed crack at the U.S. Open.

While Brooks, Kevin Stadler, Tom Pernice Jr. and J.J. Henry will be heading to Winged Foot, Wie, who finished the two rounds at 1-over-par, will be watching on television.

She was close again, but not close enough. Again.

The problem is that a beautiful swing is nothing more than aesthetically pleasing unless it gets the ball in the hole with less strokes than other players. While Wie’s swing is surely a site to behold, it just doesn’t get the job done — yet.

In many ways, yesterday was just another example of the Wie barnstorming circus that blazes into town infrequently. Her golf game is full of promise, and there’s plenty of spectacle at any event Wie is in. But after a while, you start looking for something with a bit more substance.

In golf, the so-called “silly season” starts at the end of October and runs through to the start of the next PGA Tour season. The problem for Wie is that her career is beginning to look like a perpetual silly season.

Her sponsors and parents seem to be content to have her fly all over the world like golf’s great novelty, making the occasional cut on a men’s tour but never winning anything. One week she plays in Korea in a men’s tour event, followed by a stop in Japan and finally the occasional LPGA tournament.

So far the best that can be said is that she’s largely competitive in the men’s events and occasionally has the chance to win in one of the women’s tournaments. The problem is that she has no hope of winning on the PGA Tour and hasn’t delivered the goods on the LPGA Tour.

Sports fans have seen teen stars before, and even the most preposterously have to do more than simply show up or the whole overexposed display grows tired. Michelle Wie‘s is growing stale — although couple of years and a handful of LPGA major victories over Annika Sorenstam might change that.

Still, it would be ridiculous to dismiss Wie’s immense talent and abilities.

As she demonstrated yesterday, she can be competitive with male players with vastly more experience. But it is also becoming increasingly clear that she will be lucky to make a cut on the PGA Tour, and winning on that tour seems more like a dream than reality.

The question remains: when will she win, and win consistently? The initial interest stemming from her wonderful potential has begun to fade as she attempts time and again to try to simply be average in the men’s game. She needs to return to the LPGA, where she can compete against and beat a rising crop of young stars, like Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel, and veterans like Annika Sorenstam.

Right now Wie is more of a sideshow — and sooner or later she has to deliver something more than curiosity to keep us interested.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I couldn’t disagree with you more regarding Michelle Wie.

    why is there a different standard for this young women than for other golfers?

    There are many golfers on the LPGA Tour who haven’t won yet (natalie gulbis) or haven’t won in years (Lorie Kane), yet no one seems to suggest they shouldn’t be out there. I keep reading that Michelle needs to “prove herself” on the LPGA Tour before trying PGA Tour events. Says who? Nevermind the fact she has more than proven herself with repeated top-5 finishes in LPGA majors; since when did that become a requirement for testing herself against the men?

    Following her failed bid to qualify for the US Open, you and many others in the media suggest it’s time for her to pack it in and just stop trying. I’m curious whether you feel the same about Len Mattiace, Alex Cjeka and the others Michelle beat in their sectional? Is it time for them to give up? Was attempting to qualify for the Open just a waste of their time? A fruitless PR exercise?

    Let’s give credit where credit is due.

  • Does the headline refer to Wie’s presence on the PGA tour (and trying to qualify for the US Open) or the LPGA? There is no reason that she does not belong on the LPGA tour as she plays rarely and seems to challenge in every event which are generally majors. She has had a chance to win both of the LPGA majors of the year, even though she (arguably) didn’t bring her “A” game to either tournament.

    The LPGA has got to love her being on the leaderboard – who would you rather watch – Pat Hurst, one of 56 Koreans or Michelle Wie?

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