Wie's swagger disappeared at worst time


POSTED: Monday, February 16, 2009

The problem with starting so young is, you get old in a hurry.

Michelle Wie is just a 19-year-old freshman at Stanford University, who happens to make $250,000 a week, give or take a few Benjamins. And yet, most local folks feel like they've known her from here to eternity; some exasperated with all those runner-ups, others admiring her pure talent and perfect swing.

What happened to Wie on a Saturday afternoon, in conditions that would have left most of us calling it a day, was as Stephen King would say, a momentary lapse of muscular coordination. A few extra pounds of pressure per second, Lloyd, per second. It could have happened to anybody.

The fact that it happened to Wie in her 49th start on the LPGA Tour two holes into the back nine during the final round of the SBS Open was unfortunate for the Punahou School graduate, but it shouldn't have been a death blow.

Up three with eight to play is hardly a sure thing. Just ask Parker McLachlin, who entered the final round of a Nationwide Tour event with a seven-shot lead—and lost. Eventual SBS Open winner Angela Stanford pointed out that Wie puts a lot of spin on the ball.

You throw up one of those babies in a 35 mph trade show and it just gets yanked into the hazard. It felt like game, set, match, right there; even before Wie took a drop, launched her third attempt over the green, chunky-monkeyed her fourth, knocked the fifth to within 9 feet and made a huge putt to save double bogey.

It was the way she was eyeing her mistake off the tee, shoulders slightly slumped, the swagger she had after birdieing the ninth gone with the wind.

Stanford called it youth, a gentle reminder from a 31-year-old West Texas girl that Wie's flight plan as a full-fledged member of the LPGA Tour is only beginning.

A self-described late bloomer, Stanford has now won three times in her last seven events and is the hottest thing going in women's golf. But she only has four career victories dating back to her rookie season in 2001. In other words, it took time for her to get here.

“;When she made that mistake on 11, she didn't rebound,”; Stanford said. “;You could see just her youth in that.”;

While most teens ply their trades on the back roads of nowhere, Wie was allowed to swing for the cameras at the biggest events. Everyone clambered for the teen prodigy, who kept getting it oh so close, but couldn't tap it in for the win.

She's like soap opera star Susan Lucci, who was nominated 19 times before winning an Emmy. The trouble is, in these difficult economic times, where even Tiger Woods isn't immune, sponsors want every dollar to be well spent.

Their approach is much like Yoda's when instructing young Skywalker:

Try not. Do, or do not, there is no try.

And it's tough to learn that at any age.