Floundering Wie

Wie’s talent wasted chasing after the men: Mounting pressure is taking its toll on 16-year-old

By Robert Thompson

Please, someone, make Michelle Wie stop — for her own good.

A week after playing in Europe and hardly breaking 80 en route to finishing dead last in the field of the European Masters, Wie will try it again today. On a long and soggy course near Pittsburgh, the 16-year old will try to finally shut up the naysayers and make the cut in a PGA Tour event, this time at the 84 Lumber Classic.

But there’s no chance that Wie, whose tee shots are finding more trees than fairways these days, will see weekend play. The only question now is when the madness surrounding Michelle Wie will stop? When will people recognize a great talent is being truly wasted chasing something that, for the time being at least, is unattainable?

The mantra coming out of Wie’s mouth hasn’t changed from the first time she teed it up on a PGA Tour event

“I would love to make the cut,” she said Tuesday. “I would love to make the top 20. But I’m not going to rush it.”

But she won’t make the cut, or the top 20, and there is a rush. Fickle sports fans are only interested in winners or the possibility of greatness. And given Wie’s shoddy play of late, there’s a real danger that casual golf fans, who have been so intrigued by the Wie story, will simply stop paying attention.

One big problem seems to be the Wie camp’s desire to make their daughter’s aspirations public. Recently Wie told the world she wants to play on the Ryder Cup. She has spoken of playing in the Masters. The truth is these dreams are just that — fantastic notions of a teenager. They also make Michelle look a little bit delusional, especially since she is having a tough time breaking 80 these days.

In the meantime, the 84 Lumber Classic will use Wie to drum up interest in a tournament few care about. This is, after all, the only place that has a statue in tribute to John Daly.

But even Daly, the unofficial host at this week’s event, thinks Wie will have a difficult time on a 7,500-yard golf course made wet by regular rain.

“She’s probably practising going, ‘God, why does it have to rain?’ ” Daly said. “She hits a lot of fairways, and she’s going to have a lot of long clubs into the greens, and her short game is going to have to be on.”

Though it is easy to be critical of the decisions Wie’s parents and advisers have made for her, it is also easy to feel bad for golf’s latest prodigy. Clearly she is being pushed beyond what should be expected of someone her age. That might be the explanation for her physical breakdown at the John Deere Classic earlier this summer and her highly questionable play in recent men’s events. Wie has protested that she is not being pushed too hard, but it is becoming increasingly easy to agree with those pundits who feel she should be going to school dances instead of getting beaten down on the PGA Tour.

The cracks in her camp are beginning to show. The Golf Channel, one of Wie’s biggest boosters, now allows its pundits to question the motives of those pushing her into men’s events. Even David Leadbetter, her instructor, seemed to question in recent interviews the wisdom of continuing to drag out his prize pupil as a sideshow attraction at second-rate men’s tournaments.

She is being set up to fail, apparently to satisfy sponsors who need the exposure she receives on the PGA Tour to justify the millions they have given her. But what happens when PGA Tour events stop asking her to play is anyone’s guess. Do those sponsors go away, or will they be satisfied with seeing her play on the LPGA Tour?

The problem with being a talented distraction is that the novelty soon wears off. Wie is no longer the teen with all the promise in the world who was going to play her way on to the PGA Tour. Instead she is a girl in desperate need of a win — somewhere, anywhere — that will give her back some of her lost credibility before the saturated public moves its focus to the next teen sensation.

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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.

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  • Funnily enough – as poorly as she did on Thusday at the 84 Lumber she did still beat the tournament host John Daly. But that’s not saying much these days.

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