Wie Facing Criticism Over Play and Manners

By Associated PressJune 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- Phil Mickelson withdrew because of a wrist injury and flew home to San Diego for an MRI. He saw two doctors, had one cortisone shot and decided to withdraw from his next tournament.
 
Michelle Wie withdrew because of a wrist injury and went to the range to hit balls.
 
In fairness, at least she took a day off.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie faces the media Tuesday at the McDonald's LPGA. (Getty Images)
Maybe that made her left wrist feel better, but it did nothing to quell the mounting criticism around her.
 
That the 17-year-old from Honolulu would walk out of the Ginn Tribute last week with only two holes left in the first round is suspicious enough. The LPGA Tour has a rule that nonmembers who don't break 88 -- and Wie was two bogeys away from that -- cannot play again for the rest of the year.
 
Worse yet was showing up at Bulle Rock on the weekend to hit balls. She played the pro-am Monday at the LPGA Championship, practiced some more on Tuesday and has no expectations for the second major of the year, conceding she is not at her best.
 
That didn't sit well with the LPGA Tour's biggest star -- Annika Sorenstam -- who happened to be the tournament host at the Ginn.
 
'I just feel that there's a little bit of lack of respect and class just to leave a tournament like that and then come out and practice here,' said Sorenstam, who soldiered on for four days despite returning from a back and neck injury.
 
'It's a little funny that you pull out with an injury and then you start grinding. My doctor told me to rest.'
 
Sorenstam was quick to note that Wie received a sponsor's exemption to the tournament. That means she was invited. The feeling on the LPGA Tour is that Wie has mistaken invitation for entitlement.
 
Only it is becoming apparent that Wie doesn't see it that way.
 
She opened her press conference Tuesday afternoon wanting to clarify a few issues from last week. One suspected there might be an apology to the tournament sponsors for a situation beyond her control. Instead, she explained when she injured her wrist during the tournament (first hole), how she injured her wrist in the first place (running in a park) and that she still wasn't 100 percent.
 
'I'm going through a hard time,' she said. 'It's my first time facing an injury.'
 
Asked about Sorenstam's criticism, Wie said nothing was said to her and she had nothing to say back.
 
'I don't think I need to apologize for anything,' she said. 'I just have to take care of my body and move forward and only think of positive things.'
 
Those are becoming hard to find.
 
The hysteria over Wie was at a high last year at Bulle Rock. She had narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, stopped only by her putting at the Canoe Brook qualifier. She was poised to become golf's youngest major champion until a wayward wedge from the 16th fairway of the final round at the LPGA Championship.
 
But her game began to disintegrate that summer. She was taken away on a stretcher from the John Deere Classic. She finished dead last in consecutive weeks in Switzerland and Pennsylvania competing against the men. She failed to break 80 at the Casio World Open on the Japanese tour. She even struggled against the women, finishing 17th in a field of 20 at the Samsung World Championship.
 
Her troubles now go beyond the wrist injury and her swing.
 
She talked endlessly Tuesday about wanting to have fun, yet there was a quiver in her voice, and no one would have been surprised to see a tear. One minute she begged for patience, the next she was defiant as ever.
 
Along with public criticism from Sorenstam and private skepticism from a host of others, she was further rattled when LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens spoke to her camp about her behavior in the Ginn pro-am.
 
'I think it was very insulting because I tried my best,' Wie said. 'It's my sixth year out here, and I played in numerous pro-ams, and I think it's ridiculous to make any false accusations about me. I just hope she gets better information.'
 
The nature of the complaints remained a mystery. Wie said she was busy with housing applications at Stanford and 'way too many other things to stress about,' and suggested someone take it up with her manager or Bivens.
 
'You should talk to the commissioner,' agent Greg Nared said.
 
Bivens did not make herself available, saying through a spokeswoman that the conversation was between her and the Wies.
 
By all accounts, an LPGA Tour official was involved in discussions with the Wie camp about the tour's infamous 'Rule 88' shortly before she withdrew. It would have been interesting to see what the tour would have done had Wie finished her round and shot 88 or worse, because it has a recent history of amending the rules for a certain teenager from Hawaii.
 
Remember, the rules were changed in 2005 that allowed Wie to become the first amateur to compete in the LPGA Championship. That was the same year the Women's British Open no longer counted against the limit of six LPGA exemptions.
 
Wie, whose class at Punahou School went through commencement without her Saturday night in Honolulu, said she would be patient with herself and asked others to do the same.
 
'I'm only human,' she said.
 
But she is no longer the prodigy that amazed the golf world with such power for such youth.
 
She is 17, but no longer a kid.
 
There was a time the LPGA Tour needed Wie a lot more than Wie needed the LPGA Tour. That might not be the case anymore.
 
People are far more willing to forgive a bad round than bad manners.
 
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