The first round of the second womens major of the year has set the table for the rest of the McDonalds LPGA quite nicely, thank you very much.
Three players - Kim Saiki-Maloney, Angela Park and former U.S. Womens Open champion Birdie Kim - share the lead at 5 under par. Lurking at 4 under, 3 under and 2 under respectively are Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Annika Sorenstam.
Meanwhile there was more new subtext prior to the beginning of Thursdays first round. And, heres a surprise: It had to do with the ongoing Michelle Wie soap opera.
Following a Wednesday report on GOLF CHANNEL in which two industry experts agreed that Wies marketability in the immediate future had been damaged by events of recent days, Nike responded in Wies defense.
Nike pays Wie a lot of money to play good golf and represent the company in good fashion. And it wasnt about to let her critics take free shots at her on the subject of marketing which is close to Nikes corporate heart.
Michelle Wie is a remarkable 17-year-old athlete who, as a result, garners extraordinary attention, said Nike exec Cindy Davis in a statement e-mailed to GOLF CHANNEL. Its not unusual that a young person of her age and talent will encounter challenges as she grows and matures in the game. We at Nike golf certainly understand that.
The Wie camp was also contacted by GOLF CHANNEL and asked to respond to the Wednesday report. But Wies New York-based publicist, Jesse Derris, said, Were not going to comment.
The Wednesday segment on Golf Central quoted industry marketing analyst Bob Williams as saying, no advertiser would want to create a deal with her now that these questions are surrounding her.
The questions in question centered mainly around Wies decision to withdraw from last weeks Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika when she was 14 over par after 16 holes. An 88 or worse, because of an LPGA rule, would have kept from LPGA events for the rest of the year. Wie said she withdrew because of a sore wrist. Her critics, including a few other women players, said Wie stopped playing to avoid the 88.
Wie then went to Bulle Rock and began practicing for this weeks event. Thats when Sorenstam criticized her for starting to grind so soon after an injury. Wie responded to Sorenstam by refusing to apologize. Meanwhile reports surfaced that Wies father had gotten into a shouting match with LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens.
Then the GOLF CHANNEL was told by a source close to the Wie camp that part of the reason Michelle wasnt forthcoming with too many details regarding her wrist problems was because she had received conflicting advice from her doctors. Needless to say, this was a story with a lot of moving parts.
This is probably going to be the ultimate cautionary tale of how not to handle a child prodigy, said agent Rocky Hambric, who represents a stable of players on the PGA TOUR. Its a shame.
Williams, the president of Burns Sports & Celebrities, said the best way for the Wie camp to get the train back on the tracks would be for Michelle to apologize for withdrawing and coming back too soon.
Asked the same question, Hambric said Wie needs to make drastic changes. Specifically, he said, she needs to get her family out of the way and turn her career over to the professionals.
Anyway, Wie, clearly not completely healed, struggled much of her afternoon round off the tee. Her score of 73 left her six back of the leaders.
So maybe everybody can get back to the fresh story lines shaping up here. How about the Pressel Slam? How about Annikas Comeback? Where did you go Birdie Kim?
..Meanwhile, back at the golf.
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