Tour and News

Pepper's message to Team Wie: Back off!

Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Michelle Wie ended her season with a 76.7 scoring average.

For almost two years Michelle Wie has spit out programmed responses to questions about her rapidly deteriorating play: "I'm really close," "I just have to keep working hard," "I'm proud of myself for hanging in there." At one time she was really close — close to winning major championships, close to making cuts on the PGA Tour and close to becoming a true crossover star. That was then, this is now, and it's time for a dose of reality.

When she was playing her best, Michelle was arguably the most talented ball striker in the women's game. She hit loads of greens in regulation, drove the ball enormous distances and controlled her ball flight with precision. Sure, she missed a few fairways, but not by huge margins. But at this year's U.S. Women's Open (she withdrew after 27 holes, claiming that her injured wrist was bothering her) she was 17 over par while hitting seven of 21 fairways and only six of 27 greens in regulation.

At the recent Samsung World Championship, Michelle pronounced herself 100% healthy. Key numbers for the week: 27 of 56 fairways hit and 38 of 72 greens in regulation, with 122 putts. Her swing, once flowing, powerful and efficient, was choppy, tilted and off-plane. Panic set in on the range 20 minutes before her first-round tee time. Her shots were going left, right and everywhere. There wasn't a Band-Aid in the world big enough to get her patched up, no go-to shot she could bring to the course to get the job done. Yet her postround comments were the same: "I'm close," "I'm proud of myself for never giving up," etc.

Come on, look at those numbers. What will it take for Team Wie to realize that things simply aren't working? There were whispers in tour circles earlier this season that her driver was actually heavier and stiffer than Tigers Woods's driver. Even if that's not true, it shows how poisonous the atmosphere around Wie has become. Some believe Michelle hasn't had a personal lesson with her teacher, David Leadbetter, in a very long time. Still, a simple video comparison from three years ago should make her deterioration apparent and be a wake-up call for Michelle's dad, B.J., who seems to have become her day-to-day coach. At the same time, B.J. and Michele's mom, Bo, have moved to Palo Alto, Calif., where Michelle is a freshman at Stanford.

This is utter rubbish and it has to stop. Michelle has already sacrificed her childhood, and now her college experience is in jeopardy as well. Let Michelle grow up and make her own decisions. Her play might or might not rebound. But what's happening right now goes way beyond birdies, bogeys and bank accounts. It's stifling the person as well as her game.

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