Tuesday, July 1, 2008

That Whole "Competing Without Winning" Conundrum

Ask Ty Tryon. Casey Wittenberg. Spencer Levin. Hell, even Sean O'Hair for a time. And most of all, call up Michelle Wie.

It is becoming more and more apparent as the days continue to pass that the "jump straight to the pros" idea in golf just isn't going to work.

Tryon was a prodigy, a kid that got his tour card at 17 through all places, the fires and pits of Qualifying School. He had won on the AJGA circuit, but jumped right into the PGA Tour as a talented but under-qualified golfer. In 2003, Tryon made four of 23 cuts, badly missing his chance at another full year and in '04 made just six of 22 cuts on the Nationwide Tour. He's a good example.

Wie is the perfect example.

The great Ron Sirak wrote a column about the crossroad Wie has found herself at, and it is exactly the Catch-22 you'd expect.

Wie just isn't doing much anymore. She's got negative karma coming from the LPGA players, a bad mindset you can see in her numbers (a 9 on a par-4 without losing a ball?) and possibly an overbearing father that needs to take a step back.

Whatever the path might be, Wie needs to do a few things.

She needs to figure out if it's school or golf, not both. You can't expect to be a top notch athlete (sorry Michael Lewis, game-player) when you're balancing the LPGA with the trials and tribulations of an elite university. You just are not. It's hard enough for college athletes to handle their respective sport and classes.

Second, Wie needs to figure out her flaws. We all know she can boom the ball off the tee, averaging 275 yards off the tee at the Women's U.S. Open, but 13 fairways in two days isn't going to cut it. Also, she averaged 30.5 putts per round last week, something that can't help balance an off-day striking the ball.

Finally, she needs to take Sirak's advice and figure out a rhythm.

Throughout her career, Wie has never played enough to get any momentum going -- not in junior golf, not as an amateur and not as a pro. But there is a way for her to get the tournament experience she needs: Write a letter to the LPGA and ask for a spot on the Duramed Futures Tour, a request that certainly would be granted.

I don't think she'd do it, but the idea isn't as crazy as it looks. Wie doesn't need the paycheck, but she does need the experience. At some point, she's going to have to find her own golfing personality, and until she's comfortable with that club in her hand on the big stage, it isn't going to come.


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