Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Competition only
gets tougher for Wie

IT'S been a week now, which means we may almost have enough distance to take a sober look at the intoxicatingly wonderful madness that was Michelle Wie's run through the Sony Open in Hawaii.

One e-mail best summed up my chronicling of events: "Well, well, well."

Well. Everybody knew her entry would generate big attendance, big attention, big excitement. That was never in question. And it had the potential to be what it became, one of the country's biggest stories. We all knew that. I'm still on record that the Gov shouldn't have leaned on Sony to circumvent the process.

Is all well that ends well? I'm not there yet. It wouldn't have taken any of the fun away if she'd qualified.

You see, the best part about this time is that she backed it up. The best part about this time is that there was pressure. And while Annika Sorenstam was great when everything was You Go, Girl easy at the Colonial, she fell apart when it looked like she had a shot at the cut. Wie didn't. She came alive in the moment.

In the past she'd been more of a celebrity entrant at many of these events. No pressure, she was just there for the experience, part of her fantasy-camp life. She was an attraction, pure potential, a swing and a smile.

This time she was competing. This time she was a real golfer, a tough one, and that was the very best part.

She lived up to the hype. She beat it. She was the real deal.

Wow, it was great.

But she may have changed everything with this performance, and that may make it tougher, not easier, next time. If you're really competing, people want to beat you, people want to bury you. If you're really competing, your competitors aren't going to be wearing "Go Michelle" buttons.

And that's good, but it's bad, too, in a way. It's a great step, but it can be tough, too. A loss of innocence, in a way. It may never be quite so cute ever again.

"I hope she doesn't get ahead of herself too much," Davis Love III said, in a reasoned and eloquent conversation with the writers that Saturday. "Because, you know, Ty Tryon, we've seen it with a lot of guys, you get a little ahead of yourself. Shooting the scores is one thing, but being ready to play professional golf is another."

Tiger Woods isn't smiling, outside of Buick commercials. Tiger Woods wants to cut your heart out with an 8-iron.

And that's another thing. These guys loved Michelle. Everybody does -- you just can't help it.

But you could feel it, as the week went on. One more question and somebody was going to snap. They get enough of this kind of thing with Tiger, being asked over and over again, "What about Michelle ..." It was funny. One televised interview seemed to go for 10 minutes before the PGA Tour pro was asked about his round.

Even the great Ernie Els, Wie's new best friend and biggest fan -- Uncle Ernie -- had to take a deep breath when asked to start a fifth day of Michelle Talk.

"It's a hard question," Love said of Wie's newfound place in the golf world. "I thought it was exciting. But we don't need to be doing that every week."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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