Michelle Wie is playing this week's PGA Tour event in Reno. A few years ago, this would have caused great excitement among the media and the fans. As this young phenom teed it up with the men, there would have been intense speculation about her ability to make the cut. But now, many folks in the golfing world are shaking their heads and saying, "Not again."
It's really sad to see a young woman with so much talent undergo so much criticism. She's been under more scrutiny in her short career than most players endure in a 25-year career. In just a few years, we have seen her struggle with her game, get disqualified for an improper drop, withdraw from a tournament due to heat exhaustion and have her integrity questioned by the No. 1 female player when Wie was on the verge of not breaking 90. Countless experts have criticized her parents as over-controlling. Most recently, she was disqualified for failing to sign her scorecard when she was in position to win the State Farm Classic.
To be fair on the last issue, LPGA officials should have caught the error in the first place. In all the years I participated in tournaments the officials never let me leave the table without two signatures, so why did it take them a day to find her mistake? Sometimes you can't help but wonder if she's snakebitten.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen Wie come up through the amateur ranks and learn how to compete and beat her peers. When you learn how to win, the spoils will come. But she jumped right from the wading pool into the deep end. By turning professional, she never experienced that training ground, and now she can only play in a handful of LPGA events on sponsors' exemptions. Even when she has played, she has not been very competitive.
So playing with the men on the PGA Tour is one of her only options. Do I think she should play? No, but I don't blame her. Where else is she going to play?
It's hard to say how she'll perform in Reno, but her presence means someone else is missing out. In a second-tier tour event like the Reno-Tahoe Open, a guy on the bubble could get a spot in the field and have a great week. She's taking that opportunity away from him. But the tournament organizers aren't concerned about that. It's all about selling tickets, and people will come out to watch Wie.
Do I think it's too late to turn her career around? No, she has the talent. She needs to go to Q-School, get her card, play on the LPGA Tour, and learn how to compete and win. Then she can take her crack at the men. As Smith Barney would say, she has to do it the old-fashioned way. She has to earn it.
(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)