February 23, 2009
For whatever reason -- jealousy, disgust at celeb hype, general crankiness -- quite a few golf fans have a fervent and very vocal distaste for newly-minted LPGA tour member Michelle Wie. And I can understand that, really. We turn on our celebrities as fast as we create them, particularly when our celebrities don't live up to the absurdly high expectations we put on them.
But evidence suggests that Wie might just have a bit more staying power than her detractors want to admit. Writing on Golf.com, Sports Illustrated senior editor Dick Friedman digs into the numbers and finds that Wie draws in the viewers like nobody else on the women's side. Focusing on last weekend's season-opening SBS Open, the most recent for which ratings data is available, Friedman notes:
The three-day telecast by Golf Channel averaged 323,000 households, up 34% from the 2008 number. Final-round coverage drew 428,000 households, the fourth-largest audience for a single LPGA round on the channel ... [D]uring the week of the SBS Open, LPGA.com registered 5.2 million page views, up 55% from last year's event and the second-highest traffic since the site registered 6.1 million page views for the '06 Evian Masters, an event in which Wie finished tied for second.
The debate over Wie is, in many ways, the debate over media in a celebrity-obsessed/Internet-driven society. I could write fifty stories on LPGA golfers who have accomplished more than Wie, and five bucks says this post alone will draw more comments than all of them put together. That's not to point fingers or blame in any direction, but simply to say this -- while the media may be responsible for starting the Michelle Wie hype, there are at least 428,000 households in America keeping it going.