Leadbetter on Wie: "from a world beater to someone who can hardly make the cut."

Superstar swing guru David Leadbetter was in Toronto yesterday, [photopress:leadbetter1.jpg,full,alignright]running a corporate outing for Callaway at a downtown office tower, making stops at a Golf Town and generally pushing his brand. He gave a few media hacks some quick swing tips (I declined a lesson, largely because of a sore right knee and the fact I haven’t swung a club since November), and instead settled in to ask a number of questions about a couple of Leadbetter’s most notable pupils, namely damaged teen Michelle Wie and South African star Ernie Els.

Leadbetter was surprisingly candid, offering an honest assessment of Wie’s mistakes and the situation with Els, who was spotted on the range working with Butch Harmon last week.

I asked Leadbetter, who has been pretty outspoken on the mistakes in the Wie camp, why he hadn’t been tossed aside like all the other advisers/agents/managers who have tangled with the teen’s parents. He took the question quite seriously, and though he didn’t address it directly, Leadbetter had some interesting things to say:

“This girl is so talented, she could do anything she wants to do in the world of golf. But people in her camp — and I’m not going to name them — have been a bit off on what she can and can’t do. It is tough that she’s a part-time golfer, unlike the other girls who work at it 24/7. In the past she’d go to school, pick it up and just play. Now there’s a lot more pressure on her. These girls — Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Annika — these girls are good. And it is hard for Michelle to be a bit player.

A “bit player.” Not overly optomistic. But it sounds like Leadbetter wasn’t thrilled with having his advice ignored:

Last year there was no way she should have played. I categorically said that a few times. She was injured, she broke her wrist and came back way too early. Everyone said that was okay, she’d work her way back to playing well again. But she started having swing problems and lost her confidence. And hopefully she hasn’t lost that. She’s reinjured her wrist a week ago — and I said, ‘Michelle, let’s learn from last year and not play unless you are healthy.’ Fortunately they’ve listened this time.

“Listened this time.” Make it sounds like Wie’s parents have rarely taken the advice of the pros that surround their daughter which was resulted in the current mess. Most of which stems from the decision to tee it up last year despite Wie’s injuries:

“It takes a long time to build up your reputation and not long to tear it down. The vultures are out there. She went about it in an unusual way. Hey I guess it is the way of the world. The girls are a bit anti-Michelle. She’s going to have to work hard to build up her reputation again. It is tough for an 18-year-old to handle. Her parents are desperately trying to do the right thing … but there are certain lessons out there.

If she hadn’t played last year, people may have a different opinion. They say she made a smart move not playing while injured. But she’s gone from a world beater to someone who can hardly make the cut.”

Lastly, Leadbetter said Wie needs to start making decisions for herself:

She has to have a say in her own career. She’s not 12-years old any longer. She has got to get the show back on the road.

Leadbetter had some other interesting notes. Ernie Els, who has worked with Leadbetter for 20 years, was seen with Butch Harmon at the CA Championship on the weekend. Leadbetter said that makes sense, especially since he isn’t out on tour full-time any longer. Leadbetter added:

It is tough for a player like Ernie, a player looking for something.

Finally, Leadbetter said if given the choice of picking Tiger or the field at the Masters, he’d take Tiger. Oh, and he’s got a teenage student currently who flies the ball 350 in the air and can run the 100-metre in 10.7 seconds. That’s where the new Tiger will be found Leadbetter said. From among a group of new athletes embracing the game.

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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.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • can that player putt? what separates TW from the field isn’t the best putting stats but the best putting stats when it counts.

  • I preferred to just hear what David had to say without your own nonsense and interpretation. Your words weren’t needed and largely irrelevant……Also, last week you went out of your way to attack John Daley. In that story, you didn’t once mention that he likely has a substance abuse (alcohol) problem. In case you don’t know this is a disease. You should have acknowledged this and perhaps shown at least some sympathy for the man, instead of kicking him in the teeth. However, you are a slob journalist so you know everything, including what kind of people Michelle’s parents are, without ever once having talked to them. By the way, I spoke recently to some golf writers about you, and they actually take you for a fool. These are your peers. They said that you do very little research, and you make things up on the fly. That confirms what I thought. Robert, please take my advice and that of your peers, and search within yourself, for some humility and remorse. Perhaps you are suffering from a substance abuse issue? Seek help. You are not worthy. Repent.

  • Dear “A couple of points,”

    Actually you’ve found me out — all I do is drink and make shit up.

    Keeps me pretty busy actually.

    So John Daly is an alcoholic? Where you’d get that info?

    As for Wie’s parent — I didn’t characterize them at all, aside from trying to interpret what Leadbetter was saying. You’re right, I don’t know them. But I don’t have to have been to a dinner party with them to understand how they’ve messed up their daughter’s career (and possibly her life as well).

    And congrats on speaking with “my peers.” Let me know which ones you caught up with so I know who to turn to for career advice. God knows I need it if I’m stuck with spineless banter from the likes of you.

    Take care,

    Your favourite slob journalist.

  • Seems like “A couple of points” has some serious issues of his own.

    You are like all those idiots that call in to radio shows to complain how rude they are or how much they hate them. As someone said above, if you think Robert is an awful journalist, then why bother wasting your time reading it?

    Wait a second … now I’ve wasted my time writing this to you … look what you’ve started!

  • Let’s put some of the blame where it lies. With Leadbetter himself. I- like most people have read and seen his articles over the years and know he changes his mind on what happens in the golf swing quite often. Before he worked with Michelle her swing was PERFECT!! I have been to a PGA seminar while he was talking about the swing saying one thing and the very next seminar, a month later, saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he said the month before, and he doesn’t even know he does this, SAD!!

  • I’ve had it with people blaming a substance abuse problem as a disease. Do you know anyone born with alcoholism? Daly’s problem is letting himself go, mainly mentally, to succumb to heavy drinking that affects his performance on the course. Yes I’m sympathetic, but I’m not about to say it’s a disease that Daly can do nothing about. The least he can do is get rehab.

  • Throw the baby out with the bath water…

    Only the individual knows whether their heavy drinking is a disease or simply a substance abuse problem that they choose not to handle for whatever reason.

    I have no idea whether JD has a disease or not but making judgements from the sidelines having not walked in his shoes seems presumptuous if not unfair.

  • Steve I guess you are a coach, when you have coached 9 world number ones and countless major champions you can give advise like this but before that…….. Who do you coach??
    Every coach has success and failures, they would the first to say that but profile puts it in the spot light.

  • The Michelle Wie story is turning out to be a tragedy. When I asked one of golf’s true icons (who shall remain nameless in this post), what he thought about Michelle Wie, he said this to me: “What’s she ever won?” I replied, “the U.Sl Public Linx”. he said, “OK, that’s nice, what else?” The truth is, there isn’t anything else. The icon then went on to tell me that there’s legions of talented players, but there are only a handful of people who know HOW to Win. Winning is something that usually has to be learned, and she certainly hasn’t learned how to win. I believe that if her parents had let her evolve naturally, and allowed her to win the junior age brackets as she got older; instead of pushing her into pro tournaments when whe was a little girl, she’d be much more adapt at the art of winning. Sadly, she may never learn this art.

  • Leadbetter seems to be developing a history of failure. He IS sorta wingy, what with the beachballs between the knees and elastic bands on the putter and all, but have you noticed that generally anyone who works with him ends up not being able to putt, or even play well generally? Something in his aproach must be encouraging athletes to think rather than play…a death knell, at that high level of competition.

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