Bigger Week for Wie or LPGA

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GolfChannel.com Insider Brian Hewitt asked David Leadbetter Tuesday if advancing through LPGA Q-School is more important to his star pupil Michelle Wie or more important to the LPGA. So it got the GolfChannel.com editorial team debating the question. Senior writer Rex Hoggard and editorial director Jay Coffin weigh in with differing opinions.
 

By JAY COFFIN
Editorial Director, GolfChannel.com

 
As much as it pains me to admit it, the LPGA needs Michelle Wie more than she needs it. If the Big Wiesy fails LPGA Q-School this week shell simply go the route she has the past six years where shes chased exposure and sponsor exemptions all over the world. It essentially would be business as usual because shed easily be able to secure exemptions into 12-14 events across varying tours. It wouldnt be ideal, but still would be a great option.
 
In these difficult economic times, the LPGA can use every resource it can get its hands on to weather the storm. The tour recently announced its 2009 schedule and lost three events and is down about $5 million on total purse money. It has been widely reported that the LPGA only has five tournaments signed past 2009. Having Wie in the mix certainly wouldnt hurt the LPGAs chance at keeping many of those sponsor opportunities for 2010. It wouldnt hurt TV contract negotiations either.
 
But heres the key. Wie needs to be relevant for the LPGA to need her. In no way does the tour gain from her being 80th on the money list. The LPGA will only reap rewards if Wie contends regularly as she did in 2006 when she played in eight LPGA events and recorded six top-five finishes, including third-place ties at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the U.S. Womens Open. Those results will help the LPGA, not the WDs, DQs or MCs that have become a habit over the past two years.
 
Annika Sorenstam having retired has nothing to do with this issue. In no way is Wie going to be a replacement for Sorenstam, who was one of the LPGAs greatest ambassadors. What were talking about here is having Wie become an addition to Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer, two other players that the LPGA desperately need on top of their games for the foreseeable future.
 
The one caution about saying that the LPGA needs Wie more than she needs it is that it comes across as suggesting that Wie is bigger than the tour. No one on any tour can claim that (other than perhaps Tiger Woods?).
 
It would do Wie a world of good to get her card and finally have a safe, secure place to play for a year. Itd be interesting to see how consistent she could become if she were to play a full schedule only against women. Sure, all that would be nice but its not a necessity. Shed still have a place to play even if she doesnt get her LPGA card. Its just that in that scenario the LPGA wouldnt have another star to promote.
 

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By REX HOGGARD
Senior Writer, GolfChannel.com

 
Considering the state of the global economy and an ever-shrinking pool of potential title sponsors, one would half expect LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens to be camped atop those newly built bleachers behind the 18th green at LPGA Internationals Champions Course holding one of those oversized wow Wie foam fingers and sporting a Stanford hat.
 
No need for an Excel Spreadsheet or a CPA on this one. The LPGA needs Michelle Wie to cash the tour card lottery like auto executives need gas money for their private jets.
 
This is, however, a cause-and-effect relationship. The tours bottom line depends on Wie lifting her game above the Mendoza Line. And a tour card may just be the B-12 shot Wie has been searching for since the resume started going sideways in 2007.
 
In two calendars Wie has 18 LPGA, Ladies European Tour and PGA Tour starts, missed seven cuts, withdrew twice, was disqualified once and managed just a single top-10 finish at the Ladies German Open.
 
The statute of limitations has long ran out on Wies only national individual title, the 2003 U.S. Womens Public Links Championship, and an inexplicable march of bad luck (wrist injury), bad decisions (eight confidence-sapping starts on the PGA Tour) and bad math (her disqualification from this years State Farm Classic) has left the one-time world-beater-in-waiting simply beaten and waiting for something good to happen.
 
A tour card is hardly reason to celebrate, particularly given Wies status as the next-big-thing following her promising 2006 campaign. But its a start, and few in the game are in more desperate need of a fresh start.
 
It is a measure of how far the once heralded teen has fallen that her tie for fourth at the sectional qualifier in California this fall (70-65-74-71) drew almost as much attention, and acclaim, as that top-5 trifecta in three of the four majors she played in 06.
 
A tour card would give Wie more than eight starts to make a year, a key ingredient for a player in search of confidence, and the LPGA a chance to market Wie Mania 2.0. Truth is the LPGA has been riding the Wie wave for some time. On LPGA.com, theres a prominent Wie Watch button, just above the Celebrating Annika tab. So much for long good-byes.
 
Now imagine the marketing magic Daytona Beach can conjure up with the likes and likenesses of Wie, Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer. Its a formula that will work, but only with a happy, healthy and hungry Wie. Heading into Wednesdays opening round, one out of three isnt bad. The rest is up to that explosive swing and fragile psyche.
 
Wie has reportedly borrowed a page from Frank Lickliters Q-School CliffNotes and decided not to talk to the media until after the five-round fun-fest is finished. As Lickliter deadpanned after last years PGA Tour Fall Classic, Ben Hogan never talked to the press.
 
True, but then The Hawk never needed to go to Q-School. Nor has Wie ever needed a victory to celebrate, be it symbolic or otherwise.
 

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