Take a mulligan: why Wie should keep playing PGA events

mulligan, 17 January 2006, Comments Off on Take a mulligan: why Wie should keep playing PGA events
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To me, the question is very simple now: does Michelle Wie have the shots and capability to compete with men on the PGA tour? Anyone watching her play at the Sony on Friday would have to conclude yes.

The woman drives the ball 290+ yards on a regular basis, outdriving even her male playing partners. Tiger’s coach Hank Haney compares Michelle’s powerful swing to Tiger’s. Michelle hit 7 birdies on a par-70 course with a PGA pro set-up in blustery and rainy conditions, and her Friday score of 68 bested over 100 PGA tour players, including World No. 2 Vijay Singh and a host of other big names (see here). The 68 is an alltime lowest round for a woman in a PGA event. Based on what I saw, the weakest part of Michelle’s game is her short game around the green (followed by a somewhat inconsistent putter). She needs more practice in this area, but it’s not going to help her much unless she gets that practice at the tougher PGA set-ups (as opposed to the LPGA set-ups).

I’m not suggesting that Michelle should be playing regularly on the PGA tour. But I am saying that her current approach to play a couple selective PGA events a year is a good strategy. Of course, some argue she needs more experience either in winning or playing on the LPGA tour with the women. Well, you forget she is doing that — she’ll be playing in more LPGA events this year than she ever has. But she also is playing with the men in a few tourneys. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Here’s why: Making a PGA cut is easier (or the chances are greater) the more PGA tourneys you play, and the more PGA experience you get. Take Lucas Glover, for example. Before his first year on the PGA tour, he played in 7 PGA or USGA tourneys. He missed the cut in his first 4 events; made the cut in his last 3 events (T80, T40, T39). In his first full year on the PGA tour, Lucas missed 13 cuts, including strings of 3 and 5 consecutives tourneys missing the cut. He made more the cut in more tourneys total, however. Last year, his second year, Lucas had a “breakthrough” year with his first PGA victory. But, if you look at his record, he missed nearly the same amount of cuts, 12 total, including one stretch where he missed 5 straight cuts in a row. And, this year, Lucas placed 6th at Mercedes, but missed the cut at the Sony, finishing worse than Michelle Wie.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on Lucas Glover. He’s a very talented and promising young golfer. But, if you look at his record, I think it shows that it’s fairly typical for young, promising golfers to go through stretches of missing cuts on the PGA tour. Glover missed his first 4 cuts in 2002. But I’m sure with each experience, he learned what it takes to make a PGA cut. Tiger notwithstanding, even the best golfers can miss a cut on the PGA tour because the competition is so great on any given week.

To put things into perspective, Michelle Wie has played only 5 male pro tourneys, and came close to making the cut on the back nine of Friday in 3 of the 5 tourneys. Michelle’s “close to success” ratio is probably at or even better than what young, promising male golfers face when first playing on the PGA tour (using Lucas Glover as an example). Even after shooting a 79 on Thursday this year, Michelle showed determination on Friday to make the cut. Next time around, she’ll have that PGA experience to draw from.

Bottom line: It won’t be any easier for Michelle Wie to make a PGA cut if she played the LPGA tour exclusively. Isn’t that what Annika Sorenstam did already, and look how hard it still was for Annika. What Michelle Wie needs is what all young, promising golfers need when trying to make it on the PGA tour: more PGA tourneys and more PGA experience. For Michelle, a few PGA events a year can only help her achieve her goal.


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