The Only Criterion - They Will Watch


Todays sermon revolves around a 15-year-old girl, a golf tournament, and peoples hot-button reaction to it. If ever there were a polarizing event in golf, Michelle Wie and the John Deere Classic has to be it.
Let me see if I can sum up the negative e-mails concerning this kid and her attempts to play in a mens professional golf tournament (her third PGA Tour event, by the way) first of all, shes a female ' thats obvious; shes taking up a spot that should go to a tour player ' shes not, she got in on a sponsors exemption which most likely would have gone otherwise to a local PGA pro; or, why in Hades name does a girl want to play with the men, anyway?
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie looked right at home talking to the media at the John Deere Classic.
But in the final analysis, I can tell you that all the wailing goes for naught because of one all-important factor: strip the PGA Tour down to its most basic element, and its only reason for being is because people want to watch it. People PLAY golf because they enjoy the experience of competing, be it against the golf course or other people. But they WATCH golf because they want to be entertained.
If they didnt care about watching golf, there would be no reason to have a tour. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam would be unknowns then, much like, say, a world champion lawn bowler.
Ergo, professional golf. Ergo, the PGA Tour. And ergo (which is a fancy way of saying therefore), the John Deere Classic. You can yelp all you want to about the tour being meant for men only, or for professionals only, but in the end it exists for only one reason ' because people enjoy watching it.
So, it boils down to one simple question: do people enjoy watching Michelle Wie? The organizers of the John Deere Classic emphatically proclaim that they do.
Jim Furyk reacted quickly to the argument that shes taking somebodys spot at the Sony Open this year. I have a problem with that argument in that it's a sponsor's spot. It's not really their spot, he said.
When I was a mini-tour player, I liked sponsor's exemptions to go to golf professionals, because those guys were trying to make a living. But its an exception where a guy has won the U.S. Amateur or an exception like Michelle Wie. I don't care who you put in this field as a sponsor's exemption, no one will gain one-third the attention that she's going to gain with her sponsor's exemption. ... Will it bother some players if she got an exemption somewhere else? I'm sure it would. I'm not one of those people.
Does Wie belong? Zack Johnson says there is no question ' she belongs strictly on the basis of her ability.
Oh, yeah, he said. I think she can maybe be in contention. I don't think there's any doubt. She's good. I mean, she's a phenom. I've said it a bunch. When you have a phenom like that, regardless - male or female - you've got to showcase it in some sort of fashion. However that arena is set up, it doesn't matter.
Ernie Els is a believer. He played with Wie at the Sony in her native Hawaii. And he sees a young woman who is very driven.
I think her goal is to be out here. She wants to be out here as soon as she can.
I don't think anybody compares to her at 15, says Els. So for her to go back to her age group and compete against those people, it just doesn't make sense for her. She wants to push herself to a different level quicker.
Wie has read the negative comments, heard all the talk. She knows that some people are not going to approve of her actions, regardless of how she succeeds.
I know they're always going to be there, Michelle said, and there are some people that are always against me. But, you know, I just have to realize that I'm having a lot of fun, and this is what I want to do and I'm not going to stop just for them.
Johnson played with Wie in a practice round Tuesday, and he came away a believer, too. This, he said, is the real deal. Regardless of how she does this week, he is proud to be in the same field with her.
I mentioned that to some of the other guys today, said Johnson. She walks high, her mannerisms are very mature. She's very, very classy, very professional. She's funny. She's generous, she's nice. She was just the epitome of a very happy and appreciative sponsor exemption.
And like I said, she's only 15. It's scary. She definitely acts beyond her years.
Win, lose or draw, shes going to play. Some people ' and that includes some pros ' are extremely unhappy about it. But I guarantee you ' people will be watching.
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