Friday, July 8, 2011

In Defense of Michelle Wie

Earlier this week, Annika Sorenstam was asked about Michelle Wie. More closely, Annika was asked about the career of Michelle, and how she's performed in her years on the LPGA.

Annika, a 10-time major winner and arguably best LPGA player to ever live, didn't hold back on Wie, saying she's thought Michelle had underperformed.

Here are the quotes ...

“I would say she has not performed to her expectations or her potential. Hopefully that will come in the next ‑ maybe this year or the next few years to follow. But she's one of those long hitters, one of those who plays with a lot of different shots in her bag. She hits some wedges just beautifully.

“I think, really, her focus, in my opinion, should be more on the golf. She's very distracted with school, doesn't really play as much full time as I thought she would. I think she needs to come out here and compete more regularly. But, she certainly has a lot of potential.

“The physical part is there. Sometimes you wonder if she's mentally strong enough to finish at the top. She has a few victories, but has not really been able to really break through, in my opinion.

“She has a lot of experience from a lot of different tournaments. We've all seen that on the PGA [Tour], and so forth, but she’s not really come out as strong as I thought she would.”

Now I have a few points I'd like to make here, so stick with me if you don't mind.

First, going all the way back to the year 2000, when Wie became the youngest player ever to qualify for the Women's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the age of 10, we must focus on who exactly made these expectations for Michelle. Was it her, or was it us?

i'd venture to say it was us. We wanted to see some player come out on the LPGA and dominate like Tiger Woods had done on the PGA Tour. We were aching for a female version of Tiger. We needed it.

Now, I don't think Michelle's father helped, but you can't blame her for that. She was simply doing what her father asked, and attempting to be more than she was.

Who is Michelle Wie? She's a 21-year-old girl that enjoys learning, is as sweet as anyone you'll ever meet, and is also a pretty damn good golfer. Wie has started to win, and although the gates haven't exactly opened, she does have two wins in the last three years, and that's pretty good if you think about it (that's more than Paula Creamer has over that stretch).

Annika says that she hasn't "performed to her expectations," but what are those expectations? To be the best in the world? To play well enough to break the gender gap? To win majors? Let us not forget that Michelle is still just 21, and is still in a great place to become a solid player on the LPGA Tour.

Yes, she might not be Yani Tseng, but neither is anyone else out there, and that's fine.

The problem with this all is, the expectations are simply physical with Michelle. She, simply put, is tall and can hit the ball far. That's it. From that, we all decided to praise her and anoint her the next big thing. And you know what? It's perfectly fine if she isn't. That's life. She is going to continue to make tens of millions of dollars and dazzle us with her game and smile. She's going to continue joke and have fun on Twitter, and she's going to continue to try to be the most normal 21-year-old she can be.

I think the problem with all the things Annika said is, it's what she wanted. Maybe that isn't the case with Michelle. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Getty Images


Anonymous said...

Hey Shane -
You forgot to mention she is a college student at one of the most academically demanding schools in the country. Maybe her expecatations are to get a college degree by age 22, then take her profession more seriously (just like the rest of the world!). She may end up being much more well adjusted for the rest of her life because she didn't take golf TOO seriously while trying to mature into an adult. Go Michelle - I hope my 4 year old daughter has half of the things in place at 21 that Wie does.


Anonymous said...

Biggest load ever is the college excuse. I think Annika should of just told the truth and said the girl has been and will always be overrated. I might actually believe the college excuse if she was in school during the LPGA season.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're the president/CEO of your company... because if you're not, then it's not good enough!

If you're not top dog, then why are you even in the game?

Shane is right. Let Michelle set her own standards. We should all strive for greatness, but you are not my authority on what great means.

Did Michelle "overrate" herself? What are you talking about? Do you mean she hasn't met YOUR expectations???

Anonymous said...

"I might actually believe the college excuse if she was in school during the LPGA season." Are you serious? What do you think the other LPGA players are doing from September - May? Selling insurance? Or are they maybe practicing for hours a day, working out to stay in shape, etc... I live in Seattle, so I know what its like to have 6 months a year (minimum) where it is tought to practice. (I can play in the rain, but who wants to practice in it?) My game suffers for at least the first 2 months of every golf season because I have rust everywhere on my game. I'm guessing that while Michelle is in Organic Chemistry rubbing elbows with some of the smartest kids in the world, (think 50 hours a week of class time + homework for 8 months a year) she's losing a little to an LPGA player who is chipping and putting during that time period. It's a trade-off that I think makes sense when she is 21 and I encourage it. (Quick - give me a run down of "child stars" who turned out well vs. those who became a train wreck when they reached their late 20s and realized they had lost their "fun" years trying to please everyone else.) If 3 years after she graduates colleg, no success has come, I may feel disappointed. Let's revisit then. Until then, Michele - be as normal as is possible for a professional athlete attending a top academic institution. Go do some stupid stuff with your girlfriends and make sure everyone's camera phone is off.