Teen golfers Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie embraced at the LPGA's stop at Ko Olina earlier this year.
Wie keeps 'em guessing
Pressel, Sorenstam, Webb talk with and about the wunderkind
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. » Here comes personable Morgan Pressel, answering candidly just about any question put to her, including some pointed queries about Michelle Wie.
"She's got it made right now," says Pressel, 18, an LPGA rookie. "She can go over to Japan and play for a guarantee for just as much money as our purses. So why would she want to come play in LPGA events when she's making lots of money?"
Pressel, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Wie herself took turns with reporters yesterday in the media room at the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
Hot topics: Do some LPGA players feel Wie is abandoning their tour to play against men? Are other players frustrated or jealous of the attention Wie commands? Why is the public fascinated with Wie?
"She's making the headlines because of her potential," LPGA Hall of Famer Sorenstam says. "The potential is there, and I'm sure the expectations are. She brings a lot of attention to the game; to women in general. That's just very positive."
Monday's U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., triggered the talk. Wie tried to become the first woman to qualify for the U.S. Open, or any of the four men's major championships.
"It would have been a monumental feat," says Webb, another LPGA Hall of Fame member. "I don't think that hurts anybody. Obviously, it's a dream of hers to try and play on the men's tour, so I guess while she's young she might as well have a go at it."
Although she didn't make it, a color picture of Wie swinging a club during Monday's competition was featured on the front page of yesterday's New York Times.
She threw out the first pitch at last night's Major League Baseball game in nearby Baltimore between the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.
"The media has created this huge persona that the public is absolutely fascinated with, the idea of a woman competing in a men's event," Pressel said. "She's a great player. I'm sure when she comes on the LPGA Tour, she brings all that hype with her."
And that will happen this week, starting tomorrow, when the second women's major of the year is played at Bulle Rock Golf Course.
"When she plays on the LPGA Tour in events like this, it helps these events," Pressel says. "But it also hurts the events she doesn't play."
Because Wie, 16, still a Punahou School student, is not a member of the LPGA, she is limited to eight LPGA events a year. And she plays eight.
It's not as if she skips LPGA competition to play at other venues. But perhaps that's the perception because of the men's events she plays.
Competing against men, she tied for 35th at the SK Telecom Open, on the Asian Tour, earlier this year. She has received exemptions to two PGA Tour events later in 2006.
And she will play against men in a European Tour event this year.
"I want to play on the LPGA Tour as well as the men's and the European Tour, the Asian Tour," she says. "I mean, just all over the place. I love it."
Michelle Wie says she didn't realize The Masters was for men only when she first watched it.
Says Pressel: "I'm sure she wants to win ... on the LPGA Tour, but she wants to compete with the men, and that's her main focus. That can only happen in a few sports. ... Whether she will actually compete is another story, but she's giving it a shot."
All the Wie questions are reminiscent of the time when Tiger Woods turned pro. PGA Tour players constantly were asked about Woods.
Wie turned pro last October and, like Woods, signed huge endorsement contracts.
Webb believes Wie is attracting new fans to golf.
"She's bringing people, just like Tiger did," Webb says. "He didn't just bring golf fans out. He brought fans that saw him on TV, not just on sports programs, but on news programs."
She also cites as an example The New York Times photo.
"They see this Michelle Wie," Webb says. "It's not just a particular type of fan. It's going to bring more people to the game to watch."
Wie says the genesis of her fascination with competing against men dates to her days as a "tomboy" growing up in Honolulu.
She says her parents -- dad, B.J., and mother, Bo -- put her in ballet, which she disliked. So she joined a baseball team as the only female player.
"I think that kind of shows from when I was 4 years old, even though it was pee-wee baseball, I still take pride that I made the All-Star team," she says.
She also enjoyed competing with boys in basketball during school recess.
When she first watched The Masters on TV, she didn't realize the tournament was only for men.
"The PGA Tour stands for Professional Golf Association," she notes. "There's no men in there. I feel I can play out there because I am a professional now, so I think that's cool."
Don't expect her to abandon her dream of playing on the PGA Tour any time soon.
"Ever since I started playing golf, I wanted to play on the PGA Tour," she says. "It's always been my goal. And it's always going to be."
Even if that happens, it doesn't mean she won't also play the LPGA Tour.
"I don't believe she will bypass the LPGA Tour," Webb says. "I believe she will eventually be out here playing. I don't think there's too many people concerned about it one way or another. ... she's already done quite a lot for us when she does play."
Sorenstam says Wie and the other young women players bode well for the LPGA.
"I put her (Wie) in the same group as the other young ones," says Sorenstam, referring to players such as Pressel, Paula Creamer, Lorena Ochoa and Natalie Gulbis, to name a few.
"I'm very excited about the future for the LPGA," Sorenstam adds. "It's very bright. They're very talented. They have a lot to offer. A lot of young, cute, attractive (players). It's very good for the Tour."