August 23, 2011
Michelle Wie is the golf equivalent of a political litmus test: you believe what you're going to believe about her, and no amount of evidence to the contrary is going to change your mind. So when Annika Sorenstam suggested at the U.S. Women's Open in July that Wie was doing a disservice to the game of golf by focusing too much on college, the Wie detractors nodded in preach on, sister affirmation.
"I think her focus, in my opinion, should be more on golf," Sorenstam said at the time. "She's very distracted with school, doesn't really play as much full time as I thought she would. I think she needs to come out here and compete more regularly." The she dropped the hammer: "You wonder if she's mentally strong enough to finish at the top."
Ouch. That's the worst kind of critique: calling into question both your judgment and your mental strength. Wie spoke with the Los Angeles Times about Sorenstam's comments, and her response was, well, pretty much the weakest route to take: "I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion."
Aw, come on, Michelle! Look, obviously she can't go out and scorch Sorenstam, one of golf's immortals. But in the larger sense, we're on Wie's side on this one. If she wants to get her degree at one of the finest schools in the country, so be it. The sports world is full of phenoms who bailed on school early and were ill-prepared for the house-of-mirrors freak show that is professional athletics; anybody that willfully chooses that route to stay grounded needs commendation, not criticism.
"I'm making my own decisions," she said, "and going to Stanford was something I needed to do for myself. It was not a decision made for my golf career, it was really solely a decision I made. It's been one of the first things in my life I did for myself."
Bingo. Plus, she's managed to reach 14th in the world, not bad for a full-time college student. She's scheduled to graduate in the spring, and at that point she'll be a deserving target for the full-on "win or else" treatment. Till then, let her have the last few months of time to herself she'll have for, oh, the next decade or so.