Wie's bit of bother with her short game shortcomings
Young star falls back to earth
Sunday 06 August 2006
Shi Hyun Ahn, a 21-year-old Korean who has something Michelle Wie does not - an LPGA victory - produced a beautifulthird-round 69 in the Weetabix Women's British Open.
Shi is one of several talented young players in the women's game and she outscored another of them, her playing partner, by three strokes. But then Wie is not just another player.
How do you solve a problem like Michelle? Nice problem to have, of course, auditioning for golf superstardom in front of large audiences and the cameras. Except this is reality, not reality television, and in golf it has never been about how, or how much, but how many. For Wie, the how equates to extraordinary talent and the how much to wealth measured in bank vaults. But this week at Lytham the how many has not added up to the right numbers.
After two rounds of 74, Wie yesterday added a level-par effort of 72. Instead of a charge back into contention, she stuck at four over par. The low scores went to others. A fourth top-five finish in the women's majors this season is unlikely.
And this is the basis of the problem with Michelle, which is ours as much as hers. Wie has done has great things, getting into contention in the majors, almost winning last week at the Evian Masters, and through to final qualifying for the men's US Open.
But she is not the finished article, and at 16 why should she be? She is still learning her trade and is still not a full-time golfer. This is her summer holiday, and yet already her every score, every shot, every action, every word is scrutinised.
Last autumn she turned professional, earning millions in the process, but in many ways she remains a talented amateur, albeit one with great potential. While she remains in mainstream education, she will not be able to complete her golfing apprenticeship.
It's the little things. She cheerfully admitted to not being quite ready for her early tee-time on Thursday and promptly bogeyed the first three holes. It's also the not so little things, like not being aware of the rule about sweeping away a loose impediment on the backswing in a bunker.
A two-shot penalty resulted when she did just this on Friday. "It's not a great read," she said sweetly when asked if she would be examining the Rules of Golf more closely. But an important read, and the fact that a shocking number of players have a limited knowledge of the rules is no excuse for a professional.
Wie has brought great publicity to the event but to facilitate her presence there is a stream of extras: two parents, two agents, two personal marshals, two policewomen, two press officers, additional rules officials, more representatives from her sponsors. Who did you go on your holidays with, Michelle?
She deals with it all serenely, apart from when her short game let her down yesterday. She made a mess of the par-fives, playing them in one over, and missed a number of short putts. It is clearly the weakness in her game, but then the strengths are so strong. She drove the ball magnificently and has the ability to hit long, raking iron shots, although the radar was not quite spot on yesterday.
Three birdies, three bogeys: she never got any momentum into the round. "I didn't make enough birdies," she said. "My irons have been off a little bit this week. I didn't take advantage of the par-fives and that is frustrating. Perhaps I'll eagle them all tomorrow."
Her putting is not the terminal illness some suggest. She will win on the women's tour when she joins full-time. Whether she makes the cut on the men's tour in the United States, or at the European Masters next month, is irrelevant.
European Tour: Karlsson hits record heights
Robert Karlsson, winner of the Deutsche Bank Players Championship last weekend, took another step towards securing his place in Europe's Ryder Cup team yesterday when he shot a course-record 63 in the third round of the EnterCard Scandinavian Masters at Barseback in Sweden.
The 6ft 5in Swede, who is 37 next month, started the day in a share of 45th place after making the cut with a shot to spare, and ended it sharing the 54-hole lead with Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts.
The pair are on 207, one clear of another Swede, Jarmo Sandelin, and two ahead of four players, including the British trio of Mark Roe, Marc Warren and David Carter.
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