Chris Baldwin This Week at August 3, 2005

Michelle Wie's camp shows true dollar-sign priorities by ducking U.S. Women's Amateur

The U.S. Women's Amateur began on Monday in Atlanta without the most well known amateur in women's golf history. Michelle Wie elected to skip the competition with her peers because a probable loss to those peers can only tarnish the marketing legend.

Oh, this isn't the official reason, of course. Wie is just too worn down from her globe-trotting schedule to compete in another event this week. That's the party line. But the reality is that Michelle is ducking Morgan Pressel, Jane Park and the rest of her talented classmates as sure as Mike Tyson ducked Lennox Lewis all those years.

By choosing to spend her summer on professional men's and women's events, Wie's camp lifted the pressure from the 15-year-old's still unsure mental game. No one expected Wie to win the U.S. Women's Open, the Evian Masters, the U.S. Women's British Open. No one expected her to even make the cut at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic. Therefore, anything she does gets celebrated, cast as a pioneering moment in golf.

And Wie is talented enough to do plenty. She can rip off amazing rolls of superb play. She just cannot keep it together when it becomes close, when the pressure truly turns on. Her best moments always seem to come when she's just out of contention to actually win: that nice final British Open round after Jeong Jang already put her stranglehold on the trophy, the great roll of match play at the Public Links after she almost missed getting out of early stroke play. All her worst always seem to come when the prize is right there: that final round U.S. Open Sunday of missed two-putts, going plus-three over the final four holes of the John Deere with the cut mark right there beckoning and ESPN breaking into programming.

Of course, that's all right because she's only 15. This would be a worthwhile defense if Wie actually ever played in tournaments where the defense went away. That's what would have happened at the U.S. Women's Amateur this week. There would have been no she's only 15 softener to throw up at any defeat, to quell any doubts. For Wie would have been playing against other teenage girls. She would have needed to produce.

Unless she didn't play.

As a short-term/big-money-payoff strategy it's a flawless approach. By doing everything possible to keep the mystique and aura over her game, at least until she signs that record-breaking Nike contract, the Wies are undoubtedly in line with every business textbook ever.

It's a maximum marketing approach.

The question is whether it's a champion's approach. It is hard to argue that Wie would not be better off having skipped one of these high-profile pro events -- cross off the Evian Masters and suddenly she's a lot more fresh -- and taking on all comers in the amateur ranks.

This is the difference between Tiger Woods' golf upbringing and Michelle Wie's. Tiger was raised to make history. Michelle Wie has been raised to make tons of cash.

Tiger never ducked anyone on any level of competition. He won the U.S. Amateur and then kept coming back to defend and win it again. Three straight Havemeyer Cups. Three straight openings for anyone to test the mettle of the next big thing in golf before he moved on to Jack's record.

Wie is not giving the Morgan Pressels of the world the same chance. In sports, they call this running scared.

Pressel vs. Wie would have been a showdown to draw eyes to women's golf. It surely would have attracted more attention than a Women's British Open you needed a GPS system, not a remote, to locate anywhere on TV.

Instead, we get Wie chilling, clutching on tight to the upcoming mega payday while Pressel, Park and her peers play.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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