Even when Michelle Wie is 10 shots off the lead she can still steal the headlines. Yesterday, the 16 -year-old was involved in a rules drama which led to her incurring a two-shot penalty which completely overshadowed the second day of the Women's British Open. For the record, Juli Inkster still holds a three-shot advantage here.
But first, as ever, to Wie who came off the 18th green believing she had just made a great par save for a 72, but who was then informed that it was, in fact, a 74. An infringement in a bunker on the 14th hole was picked up by viewers and officials alike on the BBC and, despite a confirmation call being made to the LPGA Tour office in Daytona, the two-shot punishment was certain.
To her credit, the 16-year-old immediately owned up to the transgression as well as to her ignorance of the correct protocol. "I guess I got the rule wrong," she said, before being asked whether she was off to bury her head in the rulebook. "It doesn't make very interesting reading," she replied.
It was a humorous riposte, although it perhaps masked the astonishing fact that such a top-level golfer no matter how young should not be aware of such a well-known ruling. Television replays showed Wie quite clearly contravening Rule 13-4, which prohibits a player from touching a loose impediment in a hazard before the completion of their backswing. A piece of moss was directly behind Wie's ball, which she hit when bringing her club back.
"I knew the moss was there," said Wie. "But I thought that if I swung through it I was allowed to hit it." She did and she is not, which meant the bogey five became a treble-bogey seven. At least, Wie has had some experience of it all already in her short career.
For apart from the absence of tears, it was so spookily similar to an incident which occurred in her first tournament as a professional in Palm Springs last October. Then, it was an eagle-eyed journalist, the Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger, who spotted Wie committing a misdemeanour, again unwittingly, when her penalty drop saw the ball finishing closer to the hole.
As Bamberger's sleuth work was not revealed until after Wie had signed her card, she was disqualified. Cue waterworks from the teenager and a tantrum from her caddie, Greg Johnston, who confronted Bamberger accusing him of being too eager to catch out his naïve employer. Thankfully, there was no one to blame but herself here.
Whatever, it was still a shame for the tournament as much as for Wie as, at four over par, the most watchable performer in women's golf seems to be too far out of the frame to feature prominently. Nevertheless, there is a support cast including Annika Sorenstam, five behind the leader determined to prove in the next two days that the name of Inkster is not a given to become the oldest winner of a female major. And, blessedly, for the home crowd this includes Karen Stupples, who, at two under par, is four shots off the American.
Playing with Inkster the evergreen 46-year-old whose battling level-par 72 displayed how fiercely the fire still burns Stupples's 69 reminded of her triumph in the "British" two years ago. The 33-year-old from Deal holed a five-iron on the second hole of the final round at Sunningdale for an albatross that heralded her first major. Yesterday she was at it again when her wedge from 113 yards on the 14th brought an eagle two. "That was the first time I've canned one from the fairway since that Open two years ago," she said, in joint third, one behind the Italian Silvia Cavalleri. "It brought it all back."
In fact, just being back in Britain has rejuvenated this Florida-based golfer. "I have all my family here and it's fantastic.," she said. "I forgot about the stress of playing and instead focused on having a good time." What Wie would give to be allowed to do that.
Weetabix Women's British Open. Leading second-round scores (US unless stated): 138 J Inkster 66 72; 141 S Cavalleri (It) 69 72; 142 L Wright (Aus) 71 71; K Stupples 73 69, L Kane (Can) 73 69, C Kung (Taiw) 72 70; 143 P Creamer 72 71, I M Chung (S Kor) 72 71, A Sorenstam (Swe) 72 71, S Gustafson (Swe) 76 67, S Steinhauer 73 70, G Nocera (Fr) 70 73; 144 B Daniel 73 71, L Davies (GB) 72 72, C Kim 71 73, J Granada (Par) 71 73; 145 S Yokomine (Japan) 72 73, Marta Prieto (Sp) 75 70, A Stanford 76 69, W Ward 71 74, M Hjorth (Swe) 69 76, K Icher (Fr) 72 73; 146 J M Kim (S Kor) 73 73, H Young 72 74, A Miyazato (Japan) 71 75, N Gulbis 72 74, K E Bae (S Kor) 73 73, N Reis (Swe) 70 76, A Hanna 70 76. Selected: 148 M Wie 74 74, L Neumann (Swe) 76 72.