Michelle Wie's tiny little rules violation costs her big bucks

Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

Golf is a game of inches and instants. And sometimes, leaving your club just inches in the wrong place for only seconds can cost you a whole lot of money.

Case in point: Michelle Wie. On Sunday, she was rolling. She was in second place at this weekend's Kia Classic, just four shots back of eventual winner Hee Kyung Seo. All appeared, if not perfect, at least right in the golf phenom's world.

Then one of her shots drifted into the shallow water on the 11th hole, and it all came apart. Observe:

Video courtesy of The Golf Channel.

Wie slapped at the ball, sending a spray of water everywhere, but the ball only about two feet. Frustrating as heck, absolutely, as anyone who's ever played golf knows. But then Wie, apparently without thinking, let her club drift to, and rest on, the ground. That, friends, is a rules violation, one that cost her two strokes and, in effect, up to an eventual $110,000 in prize money had she stayed in second place.

Wie, of course, is no stranger to rules violations. In 2005, she was disqualified from the Samsung World Championships after taking an improper drop. The next year at the Women's British Open, she incurred a two-stroke penalty for grounding her club in a bunker. (When asked if she planned to review the Rules of Golf a little closer, she replied, "Well, it is not actually great reading material.") And in 2008, she failed to sign her scorecard at the State Farm Classic and got herself bounced from the tournament.

After grounding the club on Sunday, Wie pleaded her case, trying to claim that she needed to stabilize herself to keep from falling. You can judge for yourself from the video, but it certainly looks more like she just let the club fall to the ground while thinking about her mess of a shot, not that she was about to pitch backward into the drink. (Which would have been a fine video all its own, but alas, it didn't happen.)

Let's be honest here. It's a rule that, in this case, had zero effect on Wie's shot. (Grounding your club can help you test the ground to determine how hard you need to swing, or get a better shot if you break up the sand around your ball, which is why it's a violation.) But stupid or not, it's a rule. Wie has to know it, has to respect it, and has to understand that when she's violated it, that's the end of the story.

Wie's litany of rules violations have been primarily her own fault. It's long past time she keeps her head in the tournament for every single hole. At the moment, it's two steps up, one step back for Wie, but that could very easily reverse.

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