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The Disappointing LPGA Career of Michelle Wie

Posted 4/3/2012 7:42 | Filed under General | Comments (0)
Back in 2003, when former golf phenom Michelle Wie was still a teenager, legendary four time Masters winner Arnold Palmer said of her, "She's probably going to influence the golfing scene as much as Tiger, or more. She's going to attract people that even Tiger didn't attract, young people, both boys and girls, and families."

Looking back nine years after Palmer made that statement -- which was followed by similar predictions of greatness by Ernie Els and other golf notables -- Wie, like Tiger, has gained worldwide fame and has become wealthy from endorsements with companies such as Kia Motors and Nike. Wie followed Tiger's footsteps attending Stanford (although she was ineligible to compete on the golf team) and even graduated, which Tiger never did.

But the comparisons to Tiger end there. This Thursday at Augusta National, Tiger, having already won his 72nd PGA Tour event 2 weeks ago, resumes his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record 18 major wins, having won "only" 14 to date. Wie, on the other hand, has a paltry 2 LPGA Tour career wins, zero major titles and has only ONE top 10 finish in the last 16 majors she's entered.

While Wie is still only 22, 14 years younger than Tiger, it's fair to say that her LPGA career to date has been profoundly disappointing. Even worse, it seems like her game is declining. Wie's 2011 season was worse than 2009 or 2010, and she's gotten off to a horrendous start in 2012, badly missing the cut at the last 2 events including the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

I've cut my Wie autograph prices by more than 50% and would be pleasantly surprised if I sold one this year. Yes, I am an autograph expert, not a golf expert, but having been a passionate LPGA fan who has closely followed her career since 2003, I am qualified to at least voice my opinion, so here goes. Wie's parents B.J. and Bo need to stop following her around and remove themselves completely from her golf game before it's too late. I'm not the first to make this suggestion and I won't be the last.

Goodness knows, Michelle's parents have been milking Michelle for almost a decade, including entering her in men's and women's events all over the world when she was still a teenager. By now B.J. and Bo should have enough money to do whatever they want, and they should take that opportunity to simply leave Michelle alone. They never allowed Michelle to have a completely normal childhood, which is bad enough. What's worse is by pushing her to compete against men when she was just a kid, they never let Michelle learn how to win consistently against GIRLS, which is probably the main reason why she never has.

Tiger played and dominated every level of competition before moving up. He learned how to win consistently and gained invaluable confidence and experience by doing so. Michelle became the youngest winner of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links in 2003 and somehow that signaled to B.J. and Bo that it was time to rush Michelle into the fast lane. What a tragic mistake.

A dozen years before Wiemania, a tennis player named Jennifer Capriati came along. Like Wie, Capriati's parents (especially her dad) were greedy and impatient, and pushed Jennifer's career into overdrive before she was old enough to understand. Jennifer had modest success like Wie, but when she failed, she collapsed under the pressure her parents had built up. Fortunately, Capriati was able to take control of her own life at about the same age Wie is now. Capriati then won 3 Grand Slam titles and reached #1 in the world before her career was cut short by injuries that may be related to playing too much, too often as a teen.

I hate to say it, but at this point Wie needs to look in the mirror and decide if she wants to salvage what's left of her golf career. The good news for her is that golfers have much longer careers than tennis players. The bad news is, at 22 Wie is already 5 years older than some of her competitors, and only slightly younger than #1 Yani Tseng. Yani has already accomplished what Wie probably thought she would have by now, having won 5 majors and narrowly missing her 6th this past Sunday.

Wie, who as a kid dreamed of playing in The Masters, should probably forget about dominating the LPGA Tour for now and go back to square one, which is making cuts. It's certainly possible that Wie could eventually match or surpass Capriati's 3 major titles, but first she needs to get her parents out of her hair and hire real professional golf teachers to help fix her game. Otherwise, Wie may eventually be remembered as the most hyped, least accomplished player in LPGA history.
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