News & ToursMarch 25, 2009

Wie Almost Crosses A Line

With all the talk about new beginnings for Michelle Wie -- she's an LPGA member now and left the celebrity-oriented William Morris Agency for golf powerhouse IMG -- the one thing she didn't need was the kind of controversy that has trailed her around the last couple of years to pop up in just her second tournament as a tour member. But a few words uttered in her pre-tournament interview sent some in the media running to LPGA rules officials.

"I got here Saturday afternoon, so I just played nine holes," Wie said Tuesday when asked her impressions of Pagago Golf Course, site of this week's J Golf LPGA International. The concern was this: Anyone entered in an LPGA event can't play the tournament course until after 5 p.m. on the Sunday before the tournament if there is an event going on that weekend, under penalty of disqualification. At least that was the old rule.

Asked about the apparent violation, an LPGA media official said the rule had been changed to 5 p.m. the Friday before the tournament, meaning Wie is fine. The irony here is that the rule was already changed once because players complained that Wie was taking advantage of a huge loophole. Originally, the rule applied only to LPGA members and all those years Wie was not a member she would frequently show up the week before an event and play the tournament course all week.

Because of that, the tour changed the rule to apply to anyone in the tournament field, whether they are a member or not. Her nimble use of the loophole came to a head at the Ginn Tribute in 2007 when she played that course for a week solid before the tournament, withdrew after 16 holes of the first round, citing a sore wrist, and showed up two days later at Bulle Rock to practice in advance of the McDonald's LPGA Championship the following week.

Wie has had several run-ins with the rules at LPGA events. She was disqualified in her professional debut at the 2005 Samsung World Championship when she took an illegal drop then signed a scorecard that did not reflect the penalty she should have incurred. She was penalized at the Women's British Open the next year for moving a loose impediment in the bunker, and she was disqualified at the State Farm Classic last year for leaving the scoring area before signing her card.

At least this time it was a false alarm. Now she can concentrate on that other problem dogging her: the fact she has gone nearly six years without a victory. She finished second in the SBS Open in Hawaii last month, her first and still only tournament as a tour member. That's a pretty positive sign that six-year- winless streak may not survive her rookie season.

--Ron Sirak

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