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Sorenstam sends message to Wie and LPGA

(AP) -- Finally, some good news for Michelle Wie.

Barring a bad drop that gets her disqualified, or a recurring wrist injury that causes her to withdraw, she is guaranteed her largest paycheck this season. That's only because the Samsung World Championship doesn't have a cut, and last-place money of $12,499 is more than her total earnings on the golf course all year.

But that's beside the point.

The focus has shifted from whether Wie will break par to whether the 18-year-old from Hawaii should even be in the 20-player field gathered at Bighorn Golf Club in the California desert.

Driving the debate is Annika Sorenstam, who this time hammered Wie more through her actions than anything she said.

No one ever imagined Sorenstam, who at this time last year was still No. 1 in the world, would not be eligible for the most elite field in women's golf. The tournament takes the defending champion, the four major champions, the leading money-winner in Europe, one special exemption and the rest from the LPGA Tour money list.

Let's take a quick inventory.

Sorenstam is a five-time winner of the Samsung World Championship. She had gone six consecutive years winning at least one major. And dating to her rookie season, she had gone 12 consecutive years finishing no worse than fourth on the money list.

Then came the unimaginable.

Sorenstam got off to a slow start this year, which later was traced to back and neck injuries that kept her out of competition for two months. She has still not regained her form, failed to record a top-10 finish in the majors for the first time since her rookie season in 1994 and is at No. 32 on the money list.

Considering her 69 victories and the goodwill she has brought the LPGA through her performance, Sorenstam should be able to play wherever she wants.

It would have a no-brainer to give her the special exemption, except for one problem. It was given to Wie back in March, before the kid went into a tailspin that not even the New York Mets could appreciate.

The perfect scenario for IMG, which runs the tournament and manages Sorenstam, would have been for Wie to give back the exemption based on the state of her game (her average score is 76.7) and so she wouldn't miss a week of her semester at Stanford.

When that didn't happen - Wie's agent said she was never asked - IMG and the LPGA Tour decided to "update" the Samsung criteria by adding a new exemption for active Hall of Famers and awarding that to Sorenstam.

Only when she detected some backlash from taking a spot in the coveted field did Sorenstam decide it wasn't worth the hassle. She declined her invitation, ending 12 straight appearances at Samsung.

Tournament officials attributed her decision to "contradictory and confusing information," which means players who thought they were in suddenly realized they were out. That's what happens when you change the rules two weeks before a tournament.

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