Turn back the clock four years and an exciting young player is attempting to make history in a PGA Tour event. At 14, Michelle Wie was trying to be the first female and the youngest player to make the cut at a PGA Tour event. Wie was given a sponsor's exemption to the 2004 Sony Open and missed the cut by one stroke after carding a 72-68 in the first two rounds. People started talking, and invitations poured in for this young phenom to participate in both men's and women's events globally.Through the next two years Wie created quite a buzz, and the LPGA could not get enough of her. The tour even modified its rules to allow Wie to participate more often despite the fact that she is not classified as a member of the LPGA Tour because she has never qualified or earned enough money to be exempt. Still, Wie posted impressive finishes at several major events. She clearly has the desire, but one could easily question her judgment and the judgment of those managing her career. As welcoming as the LPGA has been, Wie is still shooting for the stars by agreeing to play in high-risk, low-return men's events throughout the season. Before aiming for the heavens, she should make sure her rocket is full of fuel. Otherwise, it's a long fall back to earth, although Wie's landing has been cushioned by the money that is pouring in. If there were a year Wie could erase, it might be 2007. She stirred the ire of Annika Sorenstam, and many other LPGA players, by dropping out of Sorenstam's tournament when it appeared Wie would break the rule of 88. She did finish the year, though, with one great stat: she was the fifth-ranked female athlete in earnings for 2007 with $12 million (Annika is 6th with $11 million). Four female tennis players occupied the slots above her.Fast forward to the present, 2008. Wie is still not a member of any tour, and to make life even more fun is now enrolled at Stanford. Her game is showing signs of improvement, but not her decision-making skills. She is playing on several sponsors' exemptions, but she is no longer the draw that she was earlier in her career. Her chances of securing a 2009 LPGA card now rest with her winning enough money in events in which she receives sponsors' exemptions. In the last half of the season, only three opportunities remain. Otherwise, she could be headed to the first of two stages of qualifying. Her father said that she may have to attend Q-school in the fall, to which Wie replied: "I think the qualifying conflicts with school, so I probably won't go to that." Perhaps her father, B.J., might suggest she read a USGA rules book. At her last LPGA event, the State Farm Classic, she was a shot off the lead going into the final round when it was discovered by Tour officials that she had failed to sign her scorecard after the second round. A win or a high finish would have all but guaranteed her enough money to finish in the top 80 on the money list. That would have given her an exemption for 2009.This week Wie, 18, competed on the PGA Tour for the eighth time in four years, and she has yet to make a cut. To play in this event, she had to pass on an opportunity to play in the Women's British Open at Sunningdale in England. That will not help her prospects to earn exempt status for 2009. By missing the cut, she gained nothing. It didn't make good sense from a business or a career standpoint. Many in the golfing world are befuddled at the decision, including her coach, David Leadbetter. Why miss another cut and risk reinjuring her wrist by swinging too aggressively? "I'm one of Michelle's greatest fans, but what we're seeing now smacks of what happened last year," Leadbetter said. "Then, she tried to come back far too soon and did none of the necessary rehab work. Now, just when there's this little light at the end of the tunnel, they [her parents and agent] have her back playing against the men." Perhaps Wie should take counsel from some of the greatest players in the game. Her career is certainly not patterned after any player who has longevity and success. Annika Sorenstam, who played in her last major this week before she steps away from the game, may have said it best: "I really don't know why Michelle continues to do this."
It will be interesting to see how Wie finishes her 2008 season. Will she
attempt to become a full time player on the LPGA (by attending Q-School) or
continue on invitations and sponsors’ exemptions in 2009? Let’s hope she makes
the right decision so we can all see more of this talented young player in the
(Photo: Max Morse/Getty Images)