Fair way to play?

Michelle Wie is again at the center of a storm as she plays Bulle Rock

LPGA Championship

June 06, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Ever since the LPGA Championship came to Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace in 2005, the event has seemed as much a soap opera as a golf tournament. It has been fraught with friction, often involving Michelle Wie.

Two years after sponsors rankled many veteran tour members for making Wie the first amateur to be invited in the tournament's 50-year history, the now 17-year-old prodigy found herself getting blasted again yesterday by the tour's most accomplished player.

Typically soft-spoken and diplomatic, Annika Sorenstam sharply criticized Wie for the circumstances surrounding Wie's withdrawal during the first round of last week's Ginn Tribute, a new tournament outside Charleston, S.C., hosted by the former No. 1-ranked player.

Wie, who was 14-over par through 16 holes when she left the course, reiterated that she pulled out because she reinjured her left wrist, not because she would have jeopardized playing in future LPGA events. An LPGA Tour rule bans non-Tour members for the rest of the calendar year if they shoot 88 or higher.

But Sorenstam was upset that Wie, who had received a sponsor's exemption to play in her first LPGA event of the year and her first tournament since January, did not call Sorenstam after she withdrew. Sorenstam also was not happy after hearing that Wie had practiced over the weekend at Bulle Rock.

"I just feel that there's a little bit of lack of respect and class just to kind of leave a tournament like that and then come out and practice here," said Sorenstam, who returned after missing nearly two months because of neck and back injuries and finished tied for 36th at the Ginn Tribute. "I don't know the situation, if it's the injury or whatever it is. ... It's a little funny that you pull out with an injury and then you start grinding."

Wie defended her actions, saying the only thing she didn't want to jeopardize was playing in this week's tournament as well as the U.S. Women's Open, which begins June 28 at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C.

"If I played those two holes [last week], I wouldn't be here today playing this week," said Wie, who is scheduled to play in the final group off the 10th tee when the 53rd LPGA Championship begins tomorrow. "So I think I made a good judgment call. It was time to shut down my wrist."

Wie said that the LPGA's so-called 88 rule was not on her mind when she withdrew. It appeared there had been communication between her parents and her agent, Greg Nared, before she left the course.

"I don't think about [shooting] 88," said Wie, whose worst previous round was an 85 in an LPGA event in Japan in 2003. "I mean, that's just ridiculous. I'm out there to play as best I can, shoot a low score, and obviously that's not on my mind."

Nor did Wie plan on apologizing to Sorenstam.

"I don't think I need to apologize for anything," she said. "It's just that I played bad and that's what golf is."

Before last week's tournament, Wie had been vague in discussing the injury, but clarified the situation surrounding the injury yesterday, saying that she suffered a fractured left wrist after falling during a run near her aunt's house in California earlier this year.

She said she also is suffering from tendinitis in her right wrist.

"I was running, which is stupid. People know me, I can't run at all," Wie said. "I never experienced anything like my left [wrist] injury. It was purely accidental and it was very unfortunate. I'm not 100 percent right now, and I'm trying to work through it.

"I'm not 100 percent strong. I haven't played for a long time. So I'm still trying to get back into it. I lost a lot of distance. I lost a lot of clubhead speed, but I'm working at it. I gained a lot of love over the last couple of months and I'm super-excited to be back out here."

Wie's decision last week wasn't the only controversy swirling around her yesterday. An LPGA spokeswoman confirmed that commissioner Carolyn Bivens met with Wie after receiving complaints from Wie's pro-am partners about her lack of interaction with them during Monday's round.

Bivens was unavailable to comment.

"I think it's ridiculous to make any false accusations about me," Wie said. "I didn't play too great, so maybe they complained about not winning. I thought it was very insulting. I just hope that she [Bivens] gets better information."

The situation involving Wie and Sorenstam seems to fit with what has transpired ever since the LPGA Championship left DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., for Bulle Rock. First it was the fans and volunteers who felt jilted after the tournament left Wilmington, then it was the players put off by Wie's first invitation.

"It's not the norm. There has been something each year," former LPGA champion Sherri Turner, a 24-year veteran, said recently. "I'm hoping that it's not going to happen this year. I'd like us to have a good event without the carnival sideshow for once."

Too late. The LPGA circus has come back to Havre de Grace.

don.markus@baltsun.com

Tale of the Tape

Annika Sorenstam Michelle Wie

Age 36 .................. 17

LPGA wins 69 ........ 0

World ranking 2 28

Events vs. men 1 17

'06 endorsements $10.75M *$19.5M

Career earnings $20.6M $735,251

*According to Golf Digest

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