Great event, that Solheim Cup. It had it all: passion, tears, shotmaking, face paint and Christina Kim on about 13 Red Bulls.
Too bad I’m going to tick everyone off by writing about Michelle Wie.
Sorry, Wie Haters. She’s the story.
Cue the haters: She hasn’t ever won anything!
Following in the spirit of the Big Wiesy’s red, white and blue peace symbol on her left cheek from Sunday: Can’t we all just get along, golf fans?
We can, and we will. But first, apologies to Paula Creamer, who did a bang-up job in her role as the Pete Rose-like “leadoff hitter” in the Sunday singles matches against Europe at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois. Like Rose smacking a base hit up the middle, taking a big turn and clapping his hands together fiercely, Charlotte Hustle put a point up on the board right out of the gate on Suzann Pettersen.
And apologies to Angela Stanford, who quietly hit No. 2 in Beth Daniel’s lineup and did her thing, making it 2-nil, U.S.A., in the early going.
And apologies to Juli Inkster, Methuselah in Footjoys, getting a half-point at age 49 and then calling it her last Solheim Cup, getting a rip on the wishy-washy Brett Favre in the process. Now that’s a send-off. How epic was Inkster’s accomplishment? Think of it this way: If Wie follows Inkster’s path to competitive golf at age 49, she’ll be playing Solheim Cups thirty years from now.
Thirty years! Think how many majors Y.E. Yang will have won by then.
At any rate, apologies because they aren’t the story.
Yes, Wie is the story. She was the best American player. Her 3-0-1 record topped all of Uncle Sam’s nieces, which makes Beth Daniel look like your garden variety genius for using a captain’s pick on Wie. Of course, behind the scenes from TV and LPGA execs, Daniel was probably under Tom Ridge-like pressure to take Wie, and she would have been banished to the Futures Tour had she not taken Wie. Still, Cap’n Beth gets the credit.
Wie remains the most compelling figure in women’s golf, for the following reasons: Her unreal golf swing. Her stated goal as a 13-year-old to win the Masters. Her striking physical presence. Her gigantic endorsement contracts. Her innate ability to fascinate the media and the galleries. And, most of all, because of her failure to win – as a pro – anything.
It’s that last point that has the Wie Haters of the World ticked off that she’d be the story after a deeply satisfying and well-played Solheim Cup.
Here’s the deal, though. Her performance in the face of Team Europe – and slaying the tough-as-leather Helen (Alfie) Alfredsson – has now officially ratcheted up the expectations on her winless career.
It became the most fashionable statement of the Solheim Cup to say, for all the world to hear: “This is Michelle Wie’s coming-out party! This is the turning point in her career! This is the moment she has found herself!”
I know this because Charlie Rymer said it on The Golf Channel, and a buddy of mine texted it to me on Sunday. That’s enough proof for me.
Also on The Golf Channel, Rich Lerner wondered aloud if we would see Michelle Wie close the deal on a Sunday. It was a great question, because she never had done so as a pro. Two-up after 16, it appeared she would, indeed, be closing some deals. But a wayward drive on 17 led to a bogey, and questions on the 18th tee, 1-up. A half-point would be, in effect, a loss for Wie. And when Alfie split the fairway with her drive, the heat was on the Big Wiesy.
She responded by roasting her drive, well past Alfie.
But the cagy old Swede cut her second shot around a tree and found the green on the par-5, placing the heat squarely back on Wiesy.
She responded with a golf swing so buttery, it could be poured over movie popcorn.
She, too, hit the green in two, inside Alfie.
When Alfie’s eagle try damn near holed out, she was in with a tap-in birdie. All that was left was for Wie to two-putt from 20 feet. If you’ve seen Michelle Wie putt under pressure, you’d put the over-under at 2 and ½ putts, and think seriously about taking the over.
Her lag from 20 feet went 17 and ½ feet, which wasn’t great.
She then banged home the 30-incher, and, in the words of the great Vince Vaughn from “Swingers” – she was “all growns up.”
What a sight, to see Michelle Wie, maligned Michelle Wie, doubted Michelle Wie, criticized Michelle Wie, waving that American flag over and over as the celebration carried on, all innocent and unfettered, as if the last half-decade hadn’t been an endless stream of disappointment. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she looked more like the epitome of the American Dream.
Now, here’s the thing: I’m not convinced.
Yes, Rymer is. Yes, my buddy who texted is. But as a card-carrying member of the “Wie Believe” Fan Club over the past six years, there have been far, far too many false starts; far, far too many “turning point” moments that never turned.
It’s time to maintain a healthy skepticism on Michelle Wie’s re-birth. After all, Sergio Garcia rises up every Ryder Cup and plays like a nino possessed – only to shrivel up and disappear when left to fend on his own as a man.
Until she does it in individual play, she may just be the Sergio of the women’s tour.
Wie played brilliantly in the cocoon of a team format. It’s an entirely different thing to do so when it’s you against the world.
The premise reminds me of a Tiger Woods moment he had with us media at the Oakland Hills Ryder Cup. Pressed as to why he had the reputation of a guy who didn’t care about the Ryder Cup, Tiger wondered aloud: “Does anybody know Jack Nicklaus’ Ryder Cup record?” When we all stared at him in silence, he said: “Does anybody know how many majors he won?” When we all answered, like school children: “Eighteen!”, Tiger shrugged as if to say: “See what I mean?”
All that said, the young lady is 19 years old. Nineteen! She’s been so heavily hyped and covered and over-covered and over-hyped, it feels like she’s 40. Yet, the fact is, she was the youngest player on either team.
The future lies ahead, inviting, like a gigantic open fairway. Now, it’s up to her to crush her next drive, straight down the middle.
Until she does, a strong dose of cynicism is entirely warranted.
Scorecard of the week
• 67-64-64-70 – 15-under 265, Sergio Garcia, 4th place, Wyndham Championship, Greensboro, N.C.
Speaking of El Nino …
Wowsa. This guy can’t do much more to burnish his reputation as the man who comes up small in big moments. It’s like he works hard at it, and will always remind us in case we forget.
At an event devoid of top 10 names, Garcia had a three-shot lead midway through the final round, then made three bogeys in five holes and missed by one stroke the three-way playoff between Jason Bohn, Kevin Stadler and eventual winner Ryan Moore.
And just to drive the shiv into the vital organs that much deeper, Garcia is now just two for seven when holding a 54-hole lead. You play like that as a closer, you find yourself doing middle-inning mop-up work in a hurry.
On the heels of his missed cut at the PGA Championship last week, I’m thinking it’s best to stay away from Sergio in your FedEx Cup pool with friends.
Wait. You have a FedEx Cup pool with friends, right? Right? Hello? Anybody out there?
Broadcast moment of the week
• “Golf needs more Christina Kims.” – Rich Lerner, The Golf Channel.
In the course of covering golf over the past decade, I got to know Christina Kim a little bit. She’s a Bay Area girl, after all (along with Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer and Sacramento’s own Natalie Gulbis, so we will pause briefly for a NorCal tribute from all of you … you’re welcome).
Anyway, back to Kim.
Or, as we might now call her, given her outrageous displays of crowd-baiting and look-at-me antics, Christina OchoCinco.
And yet, in getting to know Kim, one thing becomes clear: She is pretty much incapable of inauthentic behavior. So, while golf purists might cringe at her hip-shaking, booty-quaking act on the golf course, I can say with a fair degree of certainty: This is who she is.
This ain’t an act, folks.
Her motor revs high, her embrace of life is full and complete, and her passion for pretty much everything defines her. Heck, if you don’t believe me, just follow her on Twitter. She practically leaps through the screen to tweet in your face, saying in effect: “WOOOOOOO! AIN’T LIFE GRAND!”
Still, you have to look at her behavior through the eyes of Team Europe.
They must loathe her.
First off, Euros have a big problem with over-emotional Americans to begin with. It’s one of those “cultural differences” we have with our Euro pals. So when you throw in Christina Kim essentially doing ‘The Worm’ down every fairway, you have to imagine they’re rooting – hard – for her to start spraying hosel rockets all over the yard.
Lerner defended Kim for pretty much the same reason I’ve laid out: This is her DNA. She’s not posing for the cameras, or being a phony who shows one side when the camera is on and another when the camera is off.
She’s young, she has that freedom of spirit that can only come from a West Coast girl, and she’s living in the now. If it bothers you? Take an Advil.
I guess it’s like they used to say to the kids who listened to the rock and roll – if it’s too loud, you’re too old.
Mulligan of the week
• So the Solheim Cup is cool and all, and we had fun and it was good TV and blah, blah, blah.
Now let’s get down to it: When is the LPGA going to get a real event going and bring South Korea to this party? Or Taiwan? Or even – ahem – Mexico?
It’s time for a LPGA-styled President’s Cup, even if it means blowing out the Solheim Cup. After all, the center of women’s golf lies East of the International Date Line, and if you don’t believe me, I’ve got tweets in from Jiyai Shin, Ji Young Oh, Yani Tseng, In Young Kim, Eunjung Yi, Eun Hee Ji and Ai Miyazato – all winners on the LPGA Tour this year – to back it up.
Four of the top five money winners on the tour are Asian, and they have to sit at home and watch Becky Brewerton play golf. Nothing against Becky Brewerton. You could easily throw a Tania Elosegui in there and I’d have no argument with you.
So, LPGA, time to reach out and create a big-time international event. You know where to find the nation of South Korea. It’s right there on the globe. Easy to spot. While the Solheim Cup is neat and all, it may be time to … give the LPGA a mulligan on this one!
Where do we go from here?
• Forgive me, Commissioner Finchem, for not genuflecting at your FedEx Cup. Yes, I’ll watch, and yes, I’m sure I’ll enjoy a little bit, but what kind of “playoff” is it if you have to celebrate the fact that your No. 1 player has committed to play?
At last check, the NFL did not send out a press release to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers would honor their playoff berth and play in their first-round game.
It’s The Barclays this week, 125 players strong at Liberty National in Jersey City, and you know the buzz is pretty weak when the most pressing question of the week is: Will Tiger zip up to Martha’s Vineyard to play golf with President Obama?