Wie's disqualification put in motion by reporter
PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Michelle Wie's pro debut made her look like an amateur Sunday when she was disqualified for taking a bad drop from the bushes in the third round of the Samsung World Championship.
Lost amid the hype of 16-year-old Michelle Wie's professional debut -- pre-disqualification, of course -- Annika Sorenstam showed her star quality at nearly every turn at Bighorn.
Sorenstam closed with a 3-under 69 on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the desert to win the Samsung World Championship by eight strokes. Sorenstam, who finished at 18-under 270, won for the eighth time this season. Full story
Talk about a rude welcome less than two weeks after turning pro.
First, Annika Sorenstam blew away the field to win by eight shots, even with a double bogey on the last hole.
Then, the 16-year-old Wie no sooner had signed for a 74 to finish fourth -- $53,126 -- that LPGA Tour officials took her out to the seventh hole to discuss a drop she took the day before.
Nearly two hours later, she was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Because Wie dropped the ball closer to the hole -- by 3 inches according to her, by about a foot according to the rules officials -- she should have added two strokes to her third-round 71.
"I learned a great lesson," Wie said, her voice choking with emotion. "From now on, I'll call a rules official no matter where it is, whether its 3 inches or 100 yards. I respect that."
Wie hit a 5-wood into a Gold Lantana bush Saturday and was barely able to find it. She told her playing partner, Grace Park, she was taking an unplayable lie, dropped away from the bush, then chipped to 15 feet and made the par. It was a critical par save, and Wie steadied herself to get within five shots of the lead.
Michael Bamberger, a reporter for Sports Illustrated, told tour officials Sunday afternoon that he was concerned about the drop. Rules officials Jim Haley and Robert O. Smith reviewed tape from NBC Sports before taking Wie and caddie Greg Johnston to the seventh green after the tournament ended Sunday.
"If I had to make the ruling based on the videotape, to me it was inconclusive," Smith said.
He had Johnston and Wie show him where the ball was in the bushes, then where they dropped. They paced it off, then used string to measure the distance and determined it to be slightly closer.
"The Rules of Golf are based on facts," Smith said. "They had to tell us where it was. The fact was, the ball was closer to the hole by 12 to 15 inches."
Wie took three unplayable lies during the tournament, all without the help of rules officials. She twice asked for help, including a favorable ruling from Haley on Friday when she asked for a free drop because of bees swarming in a desert bush on the 14th hole.
She took this drop with confidence, placing tees in the ground from where her ball was in the bush, and within two club lengths of that spot. Asked by Bamberger after the third round Saturday about her drop, Wie said she used "the triangle thing to make sure that you're not closer."
"I don't feel like I cheated," Wie said Sunday. "I was honest out there. I did what I thought was right. I was pretty confident. If I did it again, I'd still do that. It looked right to me."
Johnston, who has spent the last 12 years caddying for Juli Inkster, got into a heated discussion with Bamberger as Wie and her family left Bighorn in a steady rain.
Johnston was bothered that Bamberger, who was at the seventh green when Wie took the drop, waited a day before raising it with tour officials. Had she been notified Saturday before signing her card, she would not have been disqualified.
Bamberger said he paced it off after Wie, playing in the final group Saturday, finished the hole.
"I did it in crude way -- 'Let's see what she has to say.' I was hopeful she could convince me," in the Saturday interview, Bamberger said. "I thought about it more and was just uncomfortable that I knew something. Integrity is at the heart of the game. I don't think she cheated. I think she was just hasty."
Asked why he didn't bring it up before the third round ended, Bamberger said, "That didn't occur to me. I was still in my reporter's mode. I wanted to talk to her first."
Ultimately, Wie made quite a splash in her professional debut -- just not the way she intended. And she wound up stealing all the attention from Sorenstam, who turned in one of her most dominant performances of the year.
Sorenstam cares more about winning than sending emphatic statements, yet she managed to do both Sunday.
"It's obviously very satisfying," Sorenstam said. "It's a big week for many reasons."
Asked about those reasons, she talked about joining Mickey Wright as the only players to win the same tournament five times since the LPGA Tour began in 1950 and clinching the LPGA Tour money title.
But there was more.
"I want to play well when everyone is talking about someone else," she said. "I'm very competitive."
She started with a four-shot lead over Gloria Park, built her lead to nine shots at the turn and led by as many as 10 shots until hitting into the desert and making double bogey on the last hole for a 3-under 69.
Even that became a mess.
The LPGA Tour posted her score as 68 with a bogey on the last hole, and no one knew she made double bogey until her press conference. The volunteer keeping score didn't realize Sorenstam took a penalty shot for an unplayable lie, and while Sorenstam signed for the right score, it wasn't verified because the rules officials were busy with Wie.
Lost in the disqualification was Sorenstam's eighth victory of the year. She finished at 18-under 270 to finish eight shots ahead of 19-year-old rookie Paula Creamer, and earn $212,500, pushing her over $2 million for the fifth straight season. She also wrapped up her eighth LPGA Tour player of the year award.
Creamer, whose two victories this year include a seven-shot win in France, holed a wedge shot for eagle on the 12th hole and shot 70 to finish second.
"I know what it feels like now to be just crushed," Creamer said. "Annika was probably just sending a statement to the world saying, 'I'm still here. I'm still the best player.' "
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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