Fact or Fiction: A Wie bit too soon?
He might not be the perfect role model for a not-yet 16-year-old, but Bobby Brown once sang words that should ring pretty true this week for Michelle Wie:
It's my prerogative,
I can do what I want to do.
Of course, Wie will be commended and criticized, revered and reprimanded for her decision to turn professional one week before her 16th birthday. And there's no doubt she'll be one of the most talked-about athletes in coming years.
Actually, in that respect, she's quite the veteran already. Wie has heard discussions of her future for years, but as she turns professional it's apparent that the future has become the present.
Is she making the right decision? How will she fare in the short-term as a pro? Our panel of experts answers all the questions in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.
Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. There should be no rush, but it is hard to argue with $10 million and the financial security it will bring her family.
Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FACT. Let's get this straight: People work hard in high school so they can get into a good college. People work hard in college so they can get a good job. People want a good job so they can make a decent living. So Wie is skipping a few years and a few of those steps in the process. She's still reaching the same ultimate goal.
Brian Wacker, assistant editor, GolfDigest.com: FACT. If Wie's goal is to not only be dominant on the golf course but be a star off it, then absolutely she should turn pro right now. Never again will she be able to cash in and capture the spotlight the way she has now. That's not to say Wie won't win golf tournaments or become a better player, but look at it this way: If LeBron James went to college for four years, would he be looked at in the same light as he is right now?
Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FACT. She has demonstrated the skills to compete on a professional level, especially on the LPGA. Also, the success of two other teenagers -- Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel -- almost makes it an economic necessity to strike while her market value is still high. The teens are coming in women's golf, and Wie needs to be one of them.
Wacker: FICTION. She hasn't made the cut in one PGA Tour event yet. Let's start with one before asking if she's going to make the cut in three of them. Yes, she'll likely play in more tour events than she has in the past, but that doesn't necessarily increase her chances of making the cut.
Sirak: FICTION. She might make a PGA Tour cut in 2006, but it will have to be in an event she chooses wisely in terms of strength of field and the compatibility of the course to her game. She might find two goods fits, but three is pushing it. Hey, those guys are good.
Sobel: FICTION. Unless she pulls a Ryan Moore and plays well enough to become a Special Temporary Member of the PGA Tour, Wie will be confined to seven sponsor's exemptions in '06. Three-for-seven is an average even Ted Williams couldn't pull off. That said, she'll make the cut in her first event of the season, the hometown Sony Open, and possibly one more. Remember, Tiger Woods didn't make the cut until his eighth tour event; Wie's only played in three so far.
Harig: FICTION. She came close at the John Deere Classic this year, and she needs one before she can get to three. That is still a lot to ask.
Harig: FICTION. Wie finished second at the LPGA Championship and third at the Women's British Open, but in truth, she was never really in contention to win either tournament. At the U.S. Women's Open, Wie was tied for the lead entering the final round, then shot 82. The questions about whether or not Wie knows how to win will only intensify as a pro.
Wacker: FACT. She came close at the U.S. Women's Open before a final-round meltdown. The more she plays under a microscope, the better she will handle it. She didn't learn to win on every level like Paula Creamer before making the leap, but she's talented enough to overcome that, at least at some point.
Sirak: FICTION. She will get at least six, but no more than eight opportunities on tour next year, since she will not petition for an exemption to the 18-year-old age limit so she can be a member. At least half of her women's events will be major championships, and the others will have strong fields. She still has to figure out how to win, but that will come.
Sobel: FACT. Surprising? Maybe, but consider the fact that Birdie Kim and Jeong Jang each won majors this season. And Wie is twice the player of either of them.
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