Thursday, July 26, 2007

She's b-a-a-a-c-k

Contrary to advice from me and pretty much everybody but her inner circle, Michelle Wie is not taking a long break from golf. Rather, she's in France for the LPGA's Evian Masters.

Here are excepts from her pre-tournament press conference:

PAM WARNER (LPGA media staff): You've had a wrist injury this year. Talk about how it's doing right now. How everything is going?

MICHELLE WIE: My wrist is doing BETTER. Unfortunately I had a tough year this year, because it was very unfortunate that I fell on it, but it's all better; it's healing. The bone's healed and everything, and I have to get it stronger because it's been in a cast and splints and bandages, and it needs some fresh air now. It needs to get stronger. I've been working out a lot now and trying to get back into the shape and trying to get the feel back.

Q. Are you in favor of introducing doping controls?

MICHELLE WIE: I think drug testing is drug testing. I mean, they do it in every other sport, but I think it's sad that they have suspicions of people, but drug testing is drug testing. I don't think I'm going to get caught, so I'm not worrying about it.

Q. I saw you here a couple of years ago when you played. How do you think you have changed in the last two years with your maturity as a golfer? What are the things that you've learned about dealing with media people, et cetera? How much better are you now in those two years?

MICHELLE WIE: I don't know. Hopefully I got a lot better. The first time I played here I was 14, and it seems like way back! I look at pictures back then and I think, wow, I look really different. A lot of things have changed. The world has changed, I've changed, grown a little bit taller, hopefully my game has matured a lot. I felt like last year playing when I was healthy my game was consistent, and I feel like my putting and my short game I'm gaining a lot more shots on. I feel like I'm getting better and better. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked this year with my injury, but I feel like what doesn't kill me is going to make me stronger, and hopefully this will make me a stronger mentally and physically. I feel like I'm maturing as a person, changing a little bit every year, but hopefully staying true to myself.

Q. What will you do if it starts bothering you?

MICHELLE WIE: If it does hurt during the round, I know I have some things I can do, I have a brace, so it puts comfort into my mind. I don't feel like I need it at this point. Like I said, it's getting stronger and stronger, and I just have to play until it feels better.

Q. You turn 18 in October. Will we see you full time on the LPGA?

MICHELLE WIE: I'm not sure yet. I haven't really decided what I really want to do yet. 18 is a big year. It changes everything. I'm going to make a smart decision, figure out what I really want to do and move forward onto it. I'm not really sure yet.

Q. Is it in the back of your mind -- you are incredibly young. Is there something other than golf that interests you in doing as a career?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I mean, obviously I'm still so young. Other kids my age are just thinking about what they want to do as a career, and obviously golf is what interests me the most, and I just love it. I love doing it; I don't think of it as my career, I just love playing golf. Obviously, I do have a lot of interests; that's why I'm going to college, to broaden my interest, in case I turn 25 and I want to do something else, then I have my education to fall back on. I'm interested in the whole business side of things and really interested in that and obviously fashion. I like a lot of things. I just don't want my life to revolve around golf. Golf is my main interest and my main passion, and I love doing it, but at the same time I love doing other stuff as well, and you never know what's going to happen ten years down the road or whatever. So I'm keeping my options open but right now golf is my only interest.

Q. So the world actually expects to see you on the LPGA, but in reality that may not happen?

MICHELLE WIE: A lot of things happen. People don't realize that I'm still young and I have my whole life in front of me, and it's just -- I want to be able to choose what I want to do in my life, and right now I'm just so happy playing golf right now.

Q. Can I just check, which wrist is it? I thought you had problems with both wrists?

MICHELLE WIE: It's mainly the left now.

Q. So the left was the real problem?

MICHELLE WIE: Well, they were quite big, but the last one was the "accident" one, so to speak.

Q. Do you have a target in mind for this event?

MICHELLE WIE: This week I just want to be able to play as freely as I did last year, as happy as I did. No thoughts in my mind, just out there, me and the golf ball and the golf hole and the beautiful golf course and just to play. Just to be my 17-year-old self again and to have no worries and hit the golf ball into the hole, and that's all I'm asking right now. I just want to be able to play a pain-free round, not hurt and be able to play very well.

Q. Does that mean if you play rounds without pain but perhaps miss the cut you will be satisfied then?

MICHELLE WIE: Is there a cut this week? There is? Oh, yeah, there is. You know, it all depends. I just want to be able to play pain free. If I do play pain free and I don't play very well, it's going to disappoint me, but I just want to be able to play care free, and I think if I do that then I'll play very well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sergio's blame game

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Over the next few majors, keep an eye on Sergio Garcia. He took this loss in the British Open very hard.

After years of being heralded as a future major winner and coming oh-so-close, plenty of people, including Garcia, figured it was finally his time at Carnoustie.

The time did seem right. At 27, he is older, smarter, more mature. A wizard with an iron or a driver in his hand, only his putter had been holding him back.
He no sooner goes to the belly putter two weeks ago than he shoots a 65 in the first round of the British Open and holds the lead for three straight days. Unfortunately for Garcia, he couldn’t hold it for four.

In my experience, when this kind of heartbreaking defeat occurs, players have one of two reactions: They either use the experience as scar tissue to harden them, make them stronger or they let it pretty much destroy them.

Padraig Harrington, another almost major winner until Sunday, was quite candid in his press conference afterward. He said if he had let this one slip away, he’s not sure he would have been able to continue playing competitive.

It’s hard to know what the long-term fallout will be on Garcia, but his immediate was to be, frankly, petulant, brooding.

When an R&A official opened his press conference by asking him to address the disappointment he surely must feel, Garcia was sarcastic. “No, I’m thrilled,” he said.

After that, he went on to blame all manner of things for his loss. He got bad breaks, he got held up to long when two grounds crew workers took too long to rake a bunker, he had putts that should have gone in but lipped out.

At one point he even hinted that somebody, or something – the gods or maybe a even higher – was conspiring to keep him from winning a major.

When somebody asked about his shot during the play-off that hit the pin at the 16th , Garcia said, “It’s funny how some guys hit the pin and go a foot. Mine hits the pin and goes 20 feet away.”

When somebody else asked Garcia if he thought maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, he said, “I don’t know, I’m playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field.”

Finally, when somebody asked him about the pressure of owning the lead for three days, Garcia said, “It seems like every time I get in this kind of position I have no room for error.”

Well, duh. Even I know that’s why closing the deal in a major is umpteen times harder than doing it at, say, the Booz Allen, where he last did it.

The one guy that Garcia never pointed the finger of blame at was himself. He can talk all he wants about bad breaks, but the fact is he started the day with a three shot lead and couldn’t protect it.

As the weather in Carnoustie cleared Sunday afternoon and guys all around him were going low, Garcia could do no better than 73, 2-over, when it mattered most. Harrington shot 67 and came and got him, plain and simple.

Until Garcia can look himself in the mirror and admit that, he’ll never win a major.