Compare Michelle Wie's and Tiger Woods' press-conference performances and it's no contest. Under fire from Annika Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship, Wie shows why veterans like Laura Davies still think she's the answer to the LPGA's prayers.
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - Her Nike hat pulled a little lower than usual, Michelle Wie walks into the interview room at Bulle Rock smiling. Dana Gross-Rhode, the LPGA's young media coordinator, is at her side, sharing what looks like a schoolgirl laugh.
Wie knew, of course. Her ever-present manager, Greg Nared, would never let Team Wie's product stroll into an interview blind.
Looking calm and cool, the 17-year-old pulls off something many seasoned pro athletes twice her age never manage. She talks off the cuff, without any visible script or even a scrap of notes, and delivers a long explanation for golf's version of the U.S. attorney firings.
It's not always convincing. It's often not even completely logical. But it's charming, heartfelt-sounding and full of good sound bites. And Wie doesn't seem to be sweating.
At moments like these, perhaps even more so than when Wie is on the driving range, it's easy to see why a 22-year LPGA vet and sure Hall of Famer like Laura Davies is willing to say to heck with the rules when it comes to Michelle Wie.
Wie is good at the game that really matters in any pro sport. She exudes an easy star power that's impossible to miss in person.
She's the closest thing sports has right now to Magic Johnson, another athlete who already had super charm down as a teenager and often didn't tell the media anything like the whole truth.
Listen to a Wie press conference and then catch one of Tiger Woods. It's not even close. Wie blows the best golfer in history away - in the interview chair.
Meet Michelle Wie in person and it's hard not be impressed, even as she slides ever and ever closer to Todd Marinovich status.
"I was running, which is quite stupid," Wie says at her pre-LPGA Championship press conference, offering her first public explanation of the wrist injury that supposedly drove her out of the Ginn Tribute.
"People that know me know I can't run at all. So I just had this sudden wind of 'let's go try running' and I fell over something. It was about 6:30 in the morning - my brain doesn't function then.
"Obviously, I was facing a right-hand injury at the time, so being the great athlete that I am, I just tried to kind of like fall on my left side to protect my right hand."
Are you kidding? Paul Shaffer's band should be providing rim shots. A joke about her running ability. A joke about her early-morning brain function. A joke about her status as a "great athlete."
Michael Jordan never learned to be that self-deprecating, even with help from Bugs Bunny.
"Anybody who doesn't think she's great for us," Davies says, "is crackers."
The esteemed veteran says this even while asserting that Wie "obviously wasn't injured to the point where she couldn't keep playing" at the Ginn.
Wie stood within two bogeys of shooting an 88 that, under LPGA rules, would have disqualified her (as a non-LPGA member) from the tour for a year. Like everyone else in the Bulle Rock clubhouse not on Team Wie's payroll, Davies understands that Wie walked all over the rules - with plenty of assistance from Tour officials.
And you know what? This woman with 65 pro victories, including four majors, is thanking the LPGA's lucky stars (in the form of buzz and potential ratings) that it happened.
"The LPGA did the right thing," Davies states emphatically. "We can't afford to not have Michelle Wie playing in the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open."
Wie "is not a club pro," Davies adds, referring to the 88 rule's origins in the 1990s, when a number of PGA of America pros were playing tour events. "She's a phenom."
This is a flawed and cynical argument - why not just throw out all the rules in pro sports and simply set up the best TV match-up?
But it's easy to see why Davies makes it. And why the players who no doubt silently cheered when Sorenstam said Wie showed a "lack of respect and class" at the Ginn are hesitant to attach their names to their applause.
You can see it in the closed flaps of the sponsor tents on the first two days of LPGA Championship week. Merchandise row is a virtual ghost town. Companies haven't even bothered to open yet.
Contrast that with the scene that will accompany next week's U.S. Open and you can see why the LPGA is beyond desperate for Wie to get her on-course act together.
Michelle Wie is still smiling as she leaves the interview room, flanked by her mom and Nared, his face pressed to a cell phone. The only time she'd wavered during the press conference was when she was asked about the media.
"It's a tough crowd," she says. "They're not like my friends."
Wie tells everyone she has plenty of great friends, though. Without winning a single tournament, she has a pro tour by the tail. That's power none of the other girls will ever know.
June 6, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Anyone looking back at the final scores of the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will almost certainly come to the wrong conclusion that this was a comfortable three-shot win for Catriona Matthew. It was anything but as the seemingly imperturbable Scot struggled to hit a fairway throughout the final round and was only rescued by some superb recovery shots and a bunch of astonishing long putts.
... full article »