February 11, 2009
Michelle Wie is a rookie. Hard to fathom, I know. It took me a few moments to fully digest the fact that the most recognizable female golfer playing today is only 19.
That can't be possible, I thought. Not after having watched Wie bloom, blossom, wilt, fade stumble and almost wither away for years now. No question, she's lived a life - by jock's standards.
But thankfully, she's got a lot more life to live.
I want to see Michelle Wie win, and I think she will.
She deserves to win. It wasn't fully her fault that she was thrust into the "next Tiger Woods" vortex way too prematurely. Nor that her money-grubbing team seemed to make every wrong decision for her game and growth while making every "right" decision for her bank account.
Through it all, Wie kept swinging that big, bold swing that is her hallmark. A swing so big her team thought pitting her against men was a bright idea. (See previous paragraph, last sentence.)
No doubt, Wie has shanked a few. She didn't make too many friends during her first years on the tour (not unexpected when she was essentially still a child), and as she matured her growing pangs played out not unlike those of many Hollywood Bad Girls. Okay, not quite that bad but on the course she endured so many fits and faults you wondered if she would ever become a player rather than a prodigy.
The "next Tiger" tag was taken off of her bag long ago.
Now she's about to tee it up for the first time as a rookie, and that's just about right. Last year, Wie earned (emphasis intended) her tour card at LPGA Q-School and will participate at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii, not far from where she grew up, not as a side (or freak) show, but as a legitimate player.
Finally, she has a chance to earn her stardom. Earn the attention she will inevitably attract.
Earn her millions.
Finally, she seems ready to be measured less by the length of her drives and the size of her endorsements than by her place on the leaderboard.
Her longtime instructor, David Leadbetter, says she's "very focused" and "rarin' to go."
Her aim is to qualify for the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, the LPGA's first major. To do so, she'll have to win one of the three events she's scheduled to play before Kraft or be in the top 30 of the money list by the end of the Phoenix event, which occurs the week before the Kraft Nabisco.
She can't play, according to the LPGA, based on an exemption.
In other words, she'll have to do more than merely be the Michelle Wie we've seen, known and moaned about.
That's a tall order for any rookie but this one very tall rookie seems ready. Finally.