- Eric Adelson, ESPN The Magazine
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SILVIS, Ill. -- The cameraperson jogged across the ninth fairway, trying to get a shot of a teenage girl throwing up.
Talk about heat exhaustion. It's tough to find anyone in sports who feels more heat than Michelle Wie. In the past seven days, she has been criticized by Se Ri Pak for not speaking during her round, ripped by Brittany Lincicome for not returning compliments, examined on more than one occasion for pain in her left hip, taken to the hospital in an ambulance for stomach pains, nausea and dizziness, and now ripped by PGA Tour player Jeff Gove for slow play.
That doesn't include all the grief she's received from all the sports media outlets in creation. Friday at 5 a.m. local time, one national radio program played one of her post-round quotes from Thursday no fewer than four times and then shredded Wie for making excuses for a 6-over 77. She was even called "Alice in Wonderland" for not accepting harsh reality.
Well, reality doesn't get much harsher than having thousands of people watch in rubbernecking silence as you hold your hand over your face and try desperately not to lose your lunch on national television.
Then, while you're in the hospital, the pro you just played 27 holes with -- Gove -- says the following:
"She's got a beautiful swing, but she's got her name on her bags and she needs to be professional. And she's not there yet. She's got a little time. I know she's 16. But if she wants to play pro golf, she needs to learn how to act."
Hard to believe that only 2½ years ago, when Wie tried a PGA event for the first time at the Sony Open and missed the cut by one stroke, Ernie Els said a made cut would be a "lifetime achievement."
Now here's what Gove said Friday:
"I don't think a cut is a good barometer to see how good you are. Making a cut is not an accomplishment in my mind. I think you're here to win the tournament. This was probably the easiest course we're gonna see all year. It was soft, there wasn't a lot of rough, greens were slow. And it's a pretty generous driving course. This was probably her best chance to make a cut."
The potshots, like the cameras, get closer and closer by the week. Most Americans love Wie, but the novelty has worn off for many golf pundits and players, who have become either unfairly impatient or simply annoyed. Caddie Greg Johnston repeatedly encouraged Wie to fight back the ache, but by the end of her round she walked by herself on the fairway, staggered by the discomfort, feeling the pain alone. How appropriate.
Camilo Villegas chastised the media earlier this week for scrutinizing Wie too much. Villegas looked completely exhausted, and complained about his hectic rookie season. Of course, Camilo didn't have to pose for People, GQ, and Cigar Aficionado, but no columnist will chide him for that. Villegas is simply worn out, much like any rookie on tour. But Wie's weariness will get no safe haven.
She can't win, really. She felt pain before Friday's round. Giving it a try risks further illness and holding up her fellow players. Bailing lets down fans who have paid and lined the fairways in the same withering heat to see her. Same story after the front nine, when Wie walked off the green after making double bogey and said, "Where's my mom?" What's Bo Wie supposed to say? If she says stick it out, she's a Little League Mom. If she says call it quits, she's coddling.
The bigger picture offers the same dilemma. If she stops accepting PGA offers, she's giving up on her dream. If she keeps coming back to Sony and the John Deere, she's insolent or selfish or, to use another one of Gove's words, "inconsiderate." Ninety degrees is nothing compared to the heat she'll feel as she gets older. The "she's only 16" retort expires in October.
Wie is a Rorschach test. Everyone sees what he or she wants to see. No matter how clear the picture gets -- no matter how close the cameras zoom -- opinions only harden. And although we know we might be staring at something unsettling, we simply cannot turn away.
Eric Adelson writes for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk about heat exhaustion. It's tough to find anyone in sports who feels more heat than Michelle Wie, reports Eric Adelson.