Questions in front of Wie

Questions in front of Wie

Once touted as the sports brightest talent, the American has been left behind by the new generation

Questions in front of Wie

As Michelle Wie and her playing partner emerged from the scoring tent behind the ninth hole at Mission Hills Country Club last Thursday, one spectator turned to another and said, “Isn’t she the one that’s the youngest player?”

The fan was referring to Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old from New Zealand who carded a par 72, the same as Wie, in her debut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first women’s major of the year. The juxtaposition of Ko and Wie, a world-weary 23, was a jarring reminder of time’s inexorable march.

For years, Wie was the game’s child star. At 13, she made her debut at this tournament and became the youngest player to make the cut on her way to a tie for ninth. By the time she was Ko’s age, Wie had added a fourth-place finish in the tournament and put the Masters in her cross hairs.

Her stated goal of playing in the men’s first major was one of many youthful utterances that have come back to haunt Wie, who was reminded that in her first appearance in Mission Hills Country Club, she also floated the idea of forgoing professional golf to become a teacher or an entrepreneur.

“It’s really funny hearing all the things that you say when you’re 13, 14, 15,” she said. “You just look back, and you’re like, the stuff that came out of my mouth.”
Since turning pro in 2005, Wie has won two tournaments. Ko, the top-ranked amateur, has three victories against pro competition, including last year’s Canadian Open on the LPGA Tour.

In an interview in Golf magazine, Annika Sorenstam, who was at the top of the women’s game when Wie burst onto the scene as a giggly teenager, questioned Wie’s career path, including her decision to play in several men’s events and to pursue an education at Stanford after eschewing college golf to turn pro.

“Yeah, she actually reached out to me last night, said a couple things got misquoted,” Wie said. “And I thought it was really nice of her to reach out to me. She apologised for what she said, and I accept it, and that’s that.”

On the same day that Sorenstam’s comments hit the Internet, Wie’s name came up on ESPN’s pre-Masters teleconference with reporters. Golf analyst Andy North was speaking in general about players whose pursuit of financial success has thwarted their golfing development when Paul Azinger interjected, “You know, the best example of that is probably Michelle Wie, the greatest raw talent of all time, and it just hasn’t materialised.”

Wie’s stalled career has not pitched her spirits into a downward spiral. Rather than shrink from the spotlight, Wie styled her shoulder-length hair in a manner that was sure to draw attention: she dyed the ends pink, purple and turquoise.

“I just got really bored at home last week,” Wie said, laughing.

She also is able to smile at her bad swings and shrug off criticism of her bent-at-the-waist tabletop putting stroke by the likes of the Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin, who said: “I’ll be as candid as I can be. I see nothing good about it.”
It is almost as if criticism has become such a constant that Wie is immune to its sting.

“It’s like I tried to explain to Annika last night in my text messages,” she said. “I didn’t plan for any of this to happen, it just kind of happened.”

Wie added, “I’m going with the flow and trying not to have any regrets because I think even if you do make mistakes, you still learn from it, and I’m having a lot of fun.”

Ko radiates joy, playing the game as if missed putts carry no consequences. She has a fluid swing for someone who is carrying the pride of a country on her shoulders. Her first round was televised live in New Zealand, where she moved as a child with her family from her native South Korea. Before this year, Ko said, the tournament coverage consisted of a few highlights on the news.

“Yeah, because we don’t exactly have like Golf Channel,” Ko said.
Playing with Ko, Wie said, was a good walk remembered.

“It just brought me back to memory lane a little bit, and it felt good,” she said.
Wie shied away from any comparisons of Ko to her teenage self. “I think she’s really good on her own,” Wie said. “Doesn’t really play like a 15-year-old.”

Like Wie, who chose Stanford because she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, Ko aspires to attend Stanford to be like her childhood idol, Wie.

What is it like to be old enough to be an inspiration to the next generation? “That’s weird,” Wie said. She laughed. “That’s really strange.”

Wie added: “She mentioned that to me that she wants to go to Stanford like me. It was kind of strange, I have to say, but I’m just really rooting for her.”

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)