Given record in biggest events, Wie's first win could have major implications
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida -- After seven years as a part-time performer, Michelle Wie is now a card-carrying member of the LPGA Tour. But what did the rest of us learn about her during Q-school?
1. Reports of Wie's demise are greatly exaggerated.2. Wie has the talent and game to win now. 3. She still hasn't proved she can perform in the clutch. When the week began, there was a very real possibility that the entire Wie experiment would fizzle. Of course, she is only 19 and could have reapplied to Q-school next year, but failure to finish in the top 20 among non-Tour members on an easy course would have challenged even the strongest belief that she will be a golf superstar of the future. "If she failed this test," said her coach, David Leadbetter, "it would be, 'Michelle Who?'"
It's still very much Michelle Wie. That became clear as she took her cuts early in the week, pounding drives with a close facsimile of the swing that made her famous. Her drives reached the 280-yard mark frequently, and she rarely landed in trouble. Her iron play was very strong, and her chipping was better than ever. She made four of five sand saves over the course of five rounds. Leadbetter said his student is "98 percent" back.
'A Clean Slate'After several years of feeling like an outsider, Michelle Wie earned the right to play the LPGA Tour in 2009 after finishing T-7 at Q-school. But forgiving and forgetting all the drama of the past few years are two very different things. Eric Adelson
No matter what you think of Wie, it's hard not to respect the courage it took to fight back from the brink of oblivion.Assuming her wrists stay healed -- and that is not a safe assumption -- Wie can and likely will win a tournament in the next year. Remember, in 2006 she placed in the top five in three of the first four LPGA majors she played as a pro. She held at least a share of the lead during the final nine holes of three of those four majors. So she's been in contention on several occasions already. (People who say she hasn't done anything yet are mistaken in thinking any female teen golfer can shoot 68 on a PGA Tour course at age 14 and come within a few strokes of qualifying for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot at 16.) Wie is more mature and more conservative now, so she's less prone to the kind of aggression that burned her years ago.
LPGA Tour Q-school
1. Lewis (-18)
2. Yang (-15)
3. Grzebien (-14)
T-4. Bader (-13)
T-4. Giquel (-13)
T-4. Oyama (-13)
T-7. Wie (-12)
T-7. Strom (-12)
• Final scores
Yet Wie is simply too good to be an also-ran on the LPGA Tour. She will be near the top of the leaderboard early and often. Bet on her winning at least one tournament in '09, and maybe several. But because of her putting and the fact she's still devoting a good deal of her energy to Stanford, we'll predict she finish right behind Lewis in Rookie of the Year voting.Perhaps that's not the sudden impact Wie or her fans imagine. But she is 19. And the winningest women's golfer of her generation, Annika Sorenstam, joined the Tour in 1994, when she was 23.
Eric Adelson's book on Michelle Wie will be released in 2009, but is available for preorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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2008 LPGA TOUR Q-SCHOOL FINALS
Michelle Wie has contended in women's majors and nearly made the cut of a PGA Tour event. One thing she's never owned, though, is official status on any professional circuit. That is, until she finished tied for seventh at 2008 Q-school.
What: LPGA Tour Q-school final stage
When: Dec. 3-7
Courses: LPGA International -- the Legends and Champions courses
Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Field: 140 players
The Future• Adelson: Great expectations for Wie in 2009
Day 5• Adelson: Wie starts '09 season with 'clean slate'
• Watch: Wie discusses earning her Tour card
• Wie earns card; Lewis wins Q-school | Scores
Day 4• Adelson: Wie proves again her worth to LPGA
• Wie 1 off the lead with 18 to play | Scores
Day 3• Adelson: Wie might be shaken, but not stirred
• Wie's 72 leaves her in decent shape | Scores
Day 2• Adelson: Wie goes old school at Q-school
• Wie a contender after two rounds of Q-school
Day 1• Adelson: Wie steady as she goes in first round
• Wie opens with 69 on tough Q-school course