Friday, November 9, 2012

Wie, Wie, All the Way Home?

A quick note: For those of you wondering if I forgot the November RGWR, I decided to wait until after the Disney tournament. That way I can cover the end of the PGA Tour year in November, then cover the end of the European Tour's Race to Dubai in December. I'll skip the January RGWR since there's little of importance during December and pick up again in February after a full month of 2013 tournaments.

I don't understand why GC isn't televising the Lorena Ochoa Invitational this week. After all, you'd think the rare Lorena sightings we get would warrant the attention, wouldn't you? As it is, we have to make do with the LPGA live leaderboard... and this week it tells an interesting story.

Michelle Wie is tied for the lead after the first round. Yes, you read that correctly... Michelle Wie.

Where has the Big Wiesy been all year? If you've followed the LPGA, you know that she's been struggling badly. She's had only one Top10 all year. And while it's tempting to blame it on her putting -- that's what the commentators generally do, isn't it? -- the fact is that Michelle's game in general hasn't been too good.

She's barely hit half her fairways and two-thirds of her GIR, and she gets up-and-down from the sand less than half the time so she's not scrambling well. She's taking 31.5 putts per round on average, which is bad when you aren't putting for birdie on every hole. Her scoring average is a whopping 73.62, which translates to only 15 rounds under par, only 7 in the 60s.

That just isn't going to get it done.

I know it's popular to bash Michelle right now, but I have a different view than most people. You see, if a golfer wins a major and their game tanks for a year or two, we chalk it up to "life changes" brought about the win. The poor golfer has to learn how to handle all these new demands on their time, etc. The effect of one week of golf is considered a perfectly acceptable excuse for a year of pitiful play.

Yet, for some reason I can't understand, completing a degree at Stanford while trying to maintain a golf career isn't considered "life-changing" enough to explain a year of poor play. Call me stupid if you want, but I believe it's much harder to adjust from a life at college to a life on Tour than it is to learn how to say "no" a bit more often to people who want more of your time.

The guy who wins a major has more people asking for his or her time. The college graduate has just had every routine in their life uprooted, and now has to develop a whole new plan of attack for their life.

If anything, I suspect Michelle has been trying too hard. For us mere mortals, it's hard to imagine that being gifted -- being a prodigy at something -- doesn't mean you have it all together. Nobody is born with the whole package; there's always something -- usually several very important somethings -- that still need to be developed. And it's rare that the people around you recognize those missing intangibles and focus on helping you develop them. That's the reason so few prodigies ever reach their potential... or, if they do, they eventually crash and burn.

Fortunately, Michelle hasn't crashed and burned. She's turned out to be a fairly-well-adjusted young adult, despite the constant criticism she grew up with. (Imagine trying to survive your teenage years with the mass media criticizing every move YOU made!) And now, starting with the Ricoh Women's British Open, Michelle has shown some improvement, posting 7 of her under-par rounds and 2 of her sub-60 rounds late in the year -- nearly half of her good rounds are in her last 5 events. And, of course, she added a 66 Thursday.

Will Michelle be able to bring this tournament home? I don't know. But she's managed to keep in a good frame of mind during most of her struggles this year, and she's finally showing some improvement.

I'm certainly rooting for her... and it would suit GC right if they missed it because they didn't televise the event.

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