On Friday, after her first round 69 (-3)-- with the former phenom already halfway to equalling her below-par round total for 2007-- Ron Sirak summed up the student-athlete's season outlook.
True, it is only one round of golf. And, true it was played on a golf course she probably knows a lot better than the Stanford University campus, where she is finishing up the winter quarter. [Only four days of school missed this quarter-- not bad; a small improvement on the five she missed fall quarter.] And true, questions lingered about Wie's ability to close out tournaments even before injury, lack of interest and technical problems conspired to sabotage her game in 2007. But it is also true that she is only 18 years old, and she has plenty of time to live up to a potential that as yet has not been approached....
While there were a lot of positive signs in Wie's first round back, she still has a rather large hole from which to extricate herself. First off, she alienated a lot of LPGA players last year, especially when she withdrew at the Ginn Tribute and popped up two days later to practice at Bulle Rock, where the McDonald's LPGA Championship is played. She has to show her fellow professionals she has grown up -- maybe by apologizing.
Secondly, she has put herself between a rock and a hard place in terms of the LPGA Tour. Unless they change the rules, she cannot get into either the Kraft Nabisco Championship or the McDonald's LPGA Championship, the first two majors of the year. And unless the USGA gives her a third special exemption, she will have to qualify to get into the U.S Women's Open. She is also not likely to get an invite into the Ricoh Women's British Open, the final major, unless she plays a lot better than last year.
The other thing that has happened since Wie was Wie is that she in no longer the wonder kid. Michelle is now 18 years old. Paula Creamer won on the LPGA -- twice -- when she was 18. Morgan Pressel won a major championship when she was 18. The LPGA is ankle-deep in teenagers. No longer does Wie have the novelty of youth on her side. Now she has to perform.
On Friday, in the second of the three-round tournament, Wie shot +1 (73) to fall back into a tie for 41st place.
So far this week Wie has said precious little to the press about her life at Stanford-- although the Golf Channel promises a featurette on tonight's Golf Central (10:30 p.m. EST)-- or her schedule for the rest of the year-- although that figures to be part of the gamer Sirak will write for Golf World on Sunday night.