Should Wie continue to receive sponsor's exemptions?
For the third time this season -- and sixth time overall -- Michelle Wie will compete in a PGA Tour event this week. Like the other five occasions, she was handed a spot in the 84 Lumber Classic field by way of sponsor's exemption rather than a qualification process.
So, the question remains: Should PGA Tour tournament directors continue giving sponsors' exemptions to the 16-year-old? On the one hand, golf is big business and Wie draws fans and increases ticket sales. On the other, many players have become infuriated by the concept that she has simply been handed everything rather than earning it.
ESPN.com's Bob Harig and GolfDigest.com's Ron Sirak chime in with their opinions in this week's edition of Alternate Shot.
Tournaments should continue giving Wie sponsor's exemptions as long as she continues to sell tickets.
It costs in the neighborhood of $7.5 million to $8 million a year to put on a PGA Tour event, and in exchange for paying that freight, sponsors are allowed to give -- on average -- six spots in the field to whomever they want. That seems only fair, and the tour players who complain are failing to acknowledge the source of the money they take home on Sunday when the tournament is over.
The players should also look at it this way: They aren't losing any money because Wie isn't making any cuts and picking up checks. The decision as to when Wie stops playing PGA Tour events will rest not with the sponsors but rather with the public and with Wie and her parents. When the public stops being intrigued by her efforts, they will stop showing up in record numbers and the sponsors' exemptions will dry up. And if Wie continues to miss cuts -- especially badly, as she did in Switzerland last week -- she and her family might decide that the development of her game will be better served by playing against the women.
In the meantime, give the public what it wants, and for now, it still wants Wie.
-- Ron Sirak
The sponsors must understand that the novelty has worn off, and inviting Wie might cause more harm than good. For all of her skills, she is starting to make a mockery of the process. Wie was ill-prepared to compete in Switzerland last weekend, finishing dead last after shooting 15 over par for two rounds .
Wie had just started school in Hawaii less than two weeks ago and had not competed in a tournament for more than a month. Then she flew halfway around the world to compete in a men's European Tour event, and was exposed. That the tournament was sponsored by Omega, one of a handful of companies paying her millions in endorsement money, suggests she was obligated to be there, paid handsomely to be there, or both.
This week at the 84 Lumber Classic in Pennsylvania, Wie can't accept appearance money, but she will nonetheless be there, trying for the 11th time to make the cut in a men's event. She has made it only once, earlier this year at a second-tier event in Korea. What was once a noble pursuit no longer has that feel. It is causing resentment among her peers, and little interest -- if not now, soon -- among the public. Wie, who has had an excellent season on the LPGA Tour, has yet to win, and needs to string together victories before taking on the men. For her own sake.
Unfortunately, she is not acknowledging this fact. She seems intent on testing herself against the men, no matter the results. So, for now, the sponsors should back off.
After all, if they don't offer the spots, Wie can't play unless she qualifies -- which, if she does, nobody will hold against her.
-- Bob Harig
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