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November 20, 2012

Stop waiting for Michelle Wie to be a superstar and just let her play golf

Posted at 12:20 AM by Brady Riggs | Categories: Brady Riggs, Michelle Wie

Wie_bradyMichelle Wie shot 69 on Sunday at the LPGA’s season-ending CME Championship to finish T62 at 10 over. Some would say it was another disappointing result in a disappointing season. Personally, I’m surprised she’s doing so well with all the junk she’s had to deal with throughout her career.

I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I never thought Wie would be the superstar that everyone else did. The expectations have always been way too high. She’s never won a lot and she has never done anything at any level to make me think she would be a world-beater on the LPGA Tour.

The stats bear this out. Wie notched just one top 10 finish in 2012 -- her first full season on the LPGA Tour since graduating from Stanford in June. Her putting stats are poor (128th in putting average) and her greens in regulation are just so-so (65th). She still hits it far -- third in driving distance -- but she’s not getting anything out of it.

The truth is, at 23, Wie is just another young woman trying to make a living at professional golf. She’s won, she’ll win again and she’ll probably have a nice career. But the expectations that she would win lots of majors were totally unfair.

You can point to a lot of factors: her parents’ intense involvement in her career (including the insane idea that she should play against men), and the media’s push to bill her as the Tiger Woods of women’s golf. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but it shouldn’t fall on Wie. I have a 13-year-old daughter, and I couldn’t imagine her having to face the kind of pressure that’s been on Wie since her early teens.

That pressure hasn’t gone away, either. In her first full season, Wie actually played worse than when she was a college student and part-time player. The feeling that she should “turn the corner” now that she’s playing full-time ended up putting more pressure on her. She’ll play a lot better once she doesn’t feel the weight of the world on her shoulders.

From the start, Wie said she couldn’t play golf full-time. I don’t think golf is as important to her as it is to many of the girls out there. A lot of them haven’t finished four-year degrees. They don’t have as many interests. Wie is a well-rounded young woman who enjoys other things. Good for her.

What Wie needs to succeed in golf is to play in more events like the Solheim Cup. She’s played pretty well in her two appearances. These events are great for Wie because the focus is on the team and not on her. It seemed like the other players really opened up to her in that environment.

But what would really be best for Wie is for all of us to judge her game on its merits, and not on what people thought she’d be when she was 13. She has the potential to be a pretty good LPGA pro if we’d all just give her a break.

[Photo: Michelle Wie at the 2012 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November. Getty Images]

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