August 20, 2009

US Team Getting To Know "The Real Wie"

Michelle Wie has already won at this week's Solheim Cup, according to her teammates. She's won a lot of their friendships, they say.

"As teammates, I think that we've all gotten to know her in a different way. She's made a lot of new friends this week. It'll be a really good experience for her. I think it already has been," quipped Morgan Pressel to reporters on Wednesday.

That could be a major boon and stepping stone in Wie's growth both as a person and as a golfer. Despite never having won a 72-hole event, the 19 year old is already the highest paid woman golfer, thanks to her abundant endorsement contracts. Rumors and innuendo swirled around her in the press, something that US Team Captain Beth Daniel addressed on Wednesday as well. "We always read that the players didn't like Michelle. They thought she was given everything and that when she plays golf, she's very controlled," Daniels said.

Then she continued on, saying that Wie "is one of the funniest individuals I've ever been around. She's got a very quick wit and she's really a sweet person. She's so appreciative of this opportunity."

While it is an opportunity, it is one that will come with great scrutiny. Wie's play, particularly if a match she is involved in is tight at the end and/or key to the US's victory hopes, will be examined, dissected and displayed on national television by NBC analysts Johnny Miller and Dottie Pepper.

Miller is known for his blunt style of calling it like he sees it, especially when he thinks he's seen a bad mistake. His evisceration of golfers great or unknown on NBC coverage is the stuff of legend, and Miller's commentary is possibly the most direct seen from a network announcer since broadcasting legend Howard Cosell retired. For example, in 2006, as Phil Mickelson was melting down and losing the US Open on the 72nd hole, Miller quipped that "you couldn't have [made] worse decisions than he's had on this hole."

Pepper, for her part, has her own record of direct commentary even when she doesn't mean to do so. In 2007, Pepper said that the US Team were "chokin' freakin' dogs" on air, later saying that she thought Golf Channel's coverage had gone to commercial. Naturally, that didn't sit well with the US Team, who were narrowly leading a tight event at the time. For that comment, even European captain Helen Alfredsson criticized her, calling it "totally inappropriate."

With that in mind, Wie has the chance to be a real hero, or perhaps a scapegoat this weekend, something that will surely be underlined by the commentators covering the event. The US Team is heavily favored to win, but as it often is in match play events, the winner will likely be determined on the last day, when each team sends out everyone to square off in singles events. There, Wie will need to muster her best golf from tee to green and show a grit coming down the stretch that has eluded her thus far in 2009. If she can do that, she will earn the praise of golf fans everywhere. If not, well, she'll get a difficult and painful lesson.

Still, she's inured herself with many of the top players on her tour, which can do nothing else besides making her life easier when it comes to the week in, week out nature of professional golf. That may well inspire her confidence, which has been fragile, and in turn, that may allow Wie to play more confidently and boldly -- which is a dangerous proposition for her opponents, given her prodigious talents.

1 comment:

  1. I'm confused. Why should the top players do anything to help her along ? If you believe the hype, pretty soon they will have no chance to ever win again.

    Except for this week at the Solheim Cup, the LPGA isn't a social club - this is the highest level of women's golf competition and these women...except for Wie and Gulbis...have to win to make as much money as they can.

    I'm glad she's getting along with the rest of the team and they're having a good time - but if they get clocked by the Euros, it all goes for naught.

    I don't think Wie is going to be a big part of the week for her play - but all eyes will be on her.

    Wow - lots of praise for Johnny Miller. I can't stand the guy. It doesn't take talent to insult a player for not hitting a perfect shot every time. Do we really need him to tell us that hitting a ball in the water was a mistake ? Dottie Pepper has the potential to be so much better than Miller if only she would stop laughing at her own "jokes" and keep her mind on the golf. She doesn't read putts particularly well, gets her directions mixed up, and doesn't understand how far men hit the ball - but she doesn't put players down for not hitting perfect shots...since we know that Johnny Miller never made a mistake...right ?...RIGHT ?? :-)


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