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Sorenstam sends message to Wie and LPGA

The last spot at Bighorn thus went to Sarah Lee, who has 69 fewer victories and 10 fewer majors than Sorenstam.

In addition, it became clear this "active Hall of Famer" exemption really was an "Annika" exemption, for neither Juli Inkster nor Karrie Webb were offered the invitation, even though both are more qualified than Sorenstam at the moment.

Intentional or not, Sorenstam sent Wie a powerful message about doing the right thing.

Wie doesn't drive ticket sales like she once did. She doesn't make news like she once did, except when she withdraws from a tournament with an injury and is seen hitting balls at the next event two days later. This is her last LPGA Tour event of the year, and having not competed for nearly two months, what can anyone expect?

It gets even messier considering that if not for the special exemption created for Wie, the last spot at Bighorn would have gone to Natalie Gulbis, one of the most popular players on the LPGA Tour whose passion for golf is overshadowed by her good looks. Gulbis won her first LPGA event this year at the Evian Masters, where she finished 20 ahead of Wie.

If there is a message in all of this for Wie, there is an even stronger message for the LPGA Tour: Stop bending the rules.

This is not the first time the LPGA has changed the criteria at big events to appease sponsors and, not surprisingly, the other cases involve a certain teenager from Hawaii.

Samsung first came up with a special exemption for Wie in 2004.

A year later, the McDonald's LPGA Championship changed its rules to allow room for "a leading amateur," the first time in its 51-year history that the field was not comprised of all professionals. And when Wie turned pro, the criteria was changed again to exempt anyone who finished in the top five at a major. Lo and behold, Wie was eligible.

Also in 2005, the LPGA tweaked its rules regarding the number of sponsor exemptions for non-members. The limit used to be six, but officials decided not to count the Women's British Open against the number so Wie could play.

So after she turned pro that fall, the Kraft Nabisco people figured it was time to update their criteria to allow Wie and Morgan Pressel, who also had turned pro, into the limited field.

The USGA didn't help when it offered Wie exemptions twice, even though she had every opportunity to qualify, just like everyone else.

Perhaps no other sport has greater respect for its rules than golf. The LPGA Tour's propensity to massage them is dangerous, especially with drug testing set to begin next year.

Message to whoever is making these decisions: Credibility is everything.

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