Rubenstein on Wie: Leadbetter Isn't Leaving

[photopress:wie_1_2_3_4_5.jpg,full,alignleft]Globe and Mail columnist Lorne Rubenstein doesn’t like being misinterpreted. That’s the message in his column today about teacher David Leadbetter and his disastrous student, Michelle Wie. Seems Leadbetter shot his mouth off a few weeks ago in Rube’s column — including references to the Titantic — when talking about Wie. The problem was that many golf pundits took those remarks to suggest Leadbetter was dumping his former prized student.

If she hadn’t played those [men’s] tournaments, then everybody would have considered 2006 her best season yet, said Leadbetter. It was absolute madness for her to play them. That started the whole debacle. Now with Greg Nared leaving, you feel like this is the Titanic.

Hard to understand why anyone would take that to suggest Leadbetter was bailing. After all, Titanic references are typically positive, right? Especially when the instructor followed with this:

First, the wrist hadn’t healed properly and she’d done very little rehab, Leadbetter said. You don’t come back and play so fast. The injury has to heal and then you have to rehab it. Then you have to get stronger. When you don’t use your wrist, the forearms and upper body atrophy. After you get stronger, you have to hit balls and get competitive. Then you play. Michelle bypassed the whole process.

That doesn’t sound like someone who is supportive of the decisions made by the Wie family, now does it?

But in an attempt to clarify the matter, Rubenstein returned to the two-week old column today:

It’s important to get something straight right off the top. David Leadbetter is not leaving his student Michelle Wie, notwithstanding how some people read ” well, misread ” an Oct. 17 column here.

In that column, Leadbetter referred to Greg Nared, who had just become the second manager in a year to leave Wie. Leadbetter said it was beginning to feel “like this is the Titanic.” He was referring to others leaving. He was staying.

Leadbetter’s comments caught the eye of a couple of popular ESPN shows, some prominent websites, Golf Channel, and the blogosphere.

Michael Wilbon, on the Oct. 17 edition of the ESPN show Pardon the Interruption, spoke about Leadbetter’s comments and Wie’s situation with his sidekick Tony Kornheiser.

Rubenstein’s remarks are intriguing, because even at the time I wondered whether Leadbetter’s comments suggested he was history. Wie had been a disaster this year, rarely breaking par when she wasn’t struggling with injury. Apparently not — and Rubenstein gives Leadbetter the opportunity to clarify, regardless of whether the remarks were misinterpreted, or whether Rubenstein’s column intentionally left some room for ambiguity.

However, I wonder if Leadbetter’s latest remarks suggest that the situation between the Wie family and their instructor is far from being on solid ground.

“All you can do is do your best,” Leadbetter said. “You’ll always have your critics. If you live and die by what people say about you, you’ll either be totally depressed or totally elated. It’s all fleeting anyway. You’re only as good as your last win or failure. Hank Haney [who works with Tiger Woods] said it best when he said there are only two types of golf coaches, one who is being fired or one who is about to be fired.”

So what should we take away from this latest attempt to clarify his earlier remarks? Well, Leadbetter isn’t quitting on the Wie family, but he appears to be wondering whether he’ll be fired. Either way, I can’t see him standing on the deck while this Titanic continues to slip beneath the water.

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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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