What has been Michelle Wie West’s biggest impact on women’s golf?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Tiger Woods withdrew after the third round of the PGA Championship a couple of weeks back, citing pain in his right leg as his reason for not continuing. Do you think Tiger should continue to take a spot in majors from another player who may be more competitive or are you happy to see Tiger under any circumstances?

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This is a tough one to answer without being called a ‘hater’. I am not a Tiger Hater, just not a big fan of the old Tiger. I actually like the new Tiger. He seems more approachable, and his game is more of what I think a dominant champion should have. He is a better ball striker and many times a better driver. I have this nagging assault in my mind when I hear him interviewed that makes me think a part of his new personality is him playing up the victim part. Sure, he has suffered a miserable series of mishappens pertaining to his body and he holds many of the records of meaning. The only big one that remains is to overcome the support for Ben Hogan as the GOAT. Within the GOAT discussion, someone inevitably points to a War shortened career and the accident as reasons why Hogan should be considered more highly. I wonder if Tiger thinks he would add to his support for the title of GOAT if he could somehow win another major following his accident. In response to your question, Tiger won the 20 times required for a lifetime exemption for regular Tour events and in winning the 2019 Masters he has exemptions for the major championships. He isn’t taking anything from anyone. He earned it!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Of course he should still play. I mean, he made the cut in the past two majors, so it’s not like he’s mailing it in. And he clearly feels like he can compete otherwise he wouldn’t play. The Old Course may be a better fit for him given the easy walk, so we’ll have to see. But it’s not even a question to me, he should be playing if he feels he’s healthy enough to do so.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Can’t recall any circumstance when I was happy to see Eldrick. Sadly, whatever network is handling the Major coverage (and of course Golf Channel all week long) will be all about “Tiger” if he decides to keep this Navy Seal impersonation going. Of course, technically he has earned the right to play any Major any time he damn well pleases. It’s up to him and his pain threshold. But that is really all that’s left: neither interests me.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Personally, I don’t want to see Tiger struggle. I rarely cheered for him when he was fit and winning but when someone could beat him, it was a rare and worthy accomplishment and made for great viewing. Now, there’s no glory playing wounded and no need to incur an endless stream of Tiger babble by the talking heads or inflict it on TV audiences.

The U.S. Women’s Open kicks off this week at Pine Needles Resort in North Carolina. Notable stories for this event include an entry from World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam at age 51; the return of the Korda sisters after a prolonged absence from the LPGA; also, a return of Brooke Henderson after a lengthy absence; the final LPGA event for Michelle Wie West before she steps away from the game at age 32; and continued dominance by World #1 Jin Young Ko. What’s the storyline that most captures your imagination?

Schurman: There are so many to choose from. I like the Annika story. Just like Tiger, she isn’t taking a spot from someone, she earned it. With so many careers having peaked and on the down slopes of players who are yet to reach age 25, I wonder what would happen if the LPGA stopped giving early (than age 18) exemptions. maybe some of these young women wouldn’t be burned out.

Rule: Is it just me, or has the LPGA lost a bit of the momentum it had developed the past couple of years? Perhaps it’s due to a schedule that doesn’t have any big events for a few months, but likely it’s due to the fact that their big North American stars haven’t been playing. I think it will be interesting to see how Brooke fares in her return but maybe more importantly how Nelly Korda competes. If she’s in contention, the tournament gets a huge boost. I also really hope that Wie West has a good tourney in her swan song.

Quinn: What is really difficult to imagine, let alone fathom, is why a 51-year-old thinks she can show up and compete with 20-somethings like Ko or the Kordas, and the rest? Is it to justify the Callaway ad where she says: “Me too” to Rahm saying he plays Chrome Soft because it helps him win Majors? Mercy! Outside of Annika’s nonsensical diversion — and sadly, it will get way more airtime than it deserves — should be an Open worth watching.

Mumford: It’s difficult to imagine Annika Sorenstam in a tournament when she isn’t the favourite but at age 51 and 14 years after her last LPGA win, she’s definitely a long shot this week. Still, it will be fun to see if she can recapture some of the magic that made her the most dominant player in LPGA history.

Michelle Wie West has been something of an enigma in golf ever since she played the U.S. Public Links Championship at age 10. Between then and now, Wie West played LPGA and PGA Tour events as a teenager and signed multimillion dollar contracts with sponsors including Nike even before she was eligible to be an LPGA member, earned a degree from Stanford and won five times on Tour including the 2014 U.S Women’s Open. Now as she announces her decision to step away from the game, we ask, “What has been Wie West’s biggest impact on women’s golf?”

Schurman: I’m tired of Michelle Wie and was from the beginning. Ever since she took a spot from a more deserving player because she wanted to “Play with the boys”. At that point, she wasn’t even beating the girls. She can claim the LPGA whinging award. Yes, she had some injuries, but she also ruined a great swing with incorrect information from David Leadbetter who also ruined Lydia Ko’s swing. She will go down in history under the “what should have been” category. The LPGA raced to adopt her silhouette as their motif/logo before she won and here we are more than a decade later wondering who decides who the next big star will be. Is she a victim of early demands causing burn out or is she another flame out?

Rule: She’s had a huge impact on the game of golf, and mostly in a positive way. Obviously, her marketing ploy to play in a PGA Tour event at a young age didn’t do much for her early career, perhaps stunting her early career growth. The win at Pinehurst was a huge one for her as she needed a major championship to solidify her spot as one of the better players of her generation. It’s a shame that she’s stepping away from playing the game, but she still has a lot to give back to the game in her lifetime and I expect she’ll be successful at whatever she decides to do after her playing career.

Quinn: It may not have had the biggest impact on golf, but it should have. Her surviving the wing nut demands, projections and self-absorption of parents, golf organizations, sponsors — the so-called adults in the room — is amazing That she could not only survive it but keep her self-awareness together enough to not only get into Stanford but to graduate, should be the shining example for young golfers (athletes in any sport) caught up in the maelstrom of the dreams of those “adults” who control them.

Mumford: If they ever make a movie of Michelle Wie’s life, the theme song should be ‘My Way,’ because she certainly followed an unorthodox path, with misdirection from a lot of people along the way. I think of her golf career as a terrible underachievement given all her talent but perhaps she wasn’t destined to be a week-to-week grinder racking up lots of titles. I never viewed her as a role model either, partly because she went off on bizarre tangents that others could in no way follow and also because there just aren’t that many 6’ tall girls who can bomb it 300 yards. To my mind, her biggest impact on women’s golf has been entertainment rather than achievement but I guess that counts too.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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