Wie doesn't get Sony Open exemption, questionable for other men's events
Michelle Wie might start her 2008 season in Hawaii, but not at the Sony Open.
Wie, who has played the PGA Tour event every year since 2004, did not receive one of the four unrestricted sponsor exemptions, tournament director Ray Stosik said Thursday.
Swing coach David Leadbetter said the 18-year-old from Honolulu likely would ask for exemptions at one or both of the LPGA Tour events in Hawaii that kick off the women's golf season in February. He also said competition against the men would probably be on hold until she gets her health and her game back together.
"She's not ready to play in that yet," Leadbetter said of the Sony Open, where Wie first rose to fame by shooting 68 at age 14 and missing the cut by one shot. "Her health is getting better, her game is getting better, the confidence is growing. The plan hasn't been made totally for this year yet, but she's looking to play one or two Hawaiian events against the women.
"The whole goal is to get back on track after the debacle last year."
The debacle included Wie trying to play despite both wrists being injured. She made only three cuts in nine starts, withdrew twice and only broke par two times. She also endured harsh criticism from Annika Sorenstam, who was angered by Wie pulling out of the Swede's tournament, only to be seen hitting balls on the range at the next tournament.
"She knows she's got to earn people's respect back," said Leadbetter, who has been working with Wie this week at ChampionsGate Resort outside Orlando, Fla. "She's grown up in some ways. She seems a little more independent. She's a lot happier."
Wie finished her first semester at Stanford, and Leadbetter said the family was trying to decide a balance between golf and school for the spring semester. He said the plan was for a full schedule, although it's no longer that simple.
Wie is not exempt for any of the majors, although she could try to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open and Women's British Open. If she doesn't play against the men, that would leave her only eight starts on the LPGA Tour, unless she complemented that with women's events in Asia and Europe.
But she essentially will be starting from scratch.
"The sad part about it is if she had taken the year off, nobody would think the less of her," Leadbetter said. "You don't go from being in contention in every LPGA event to not being able to break 80 without something being wrong. Everybody was too gung-ho for her to get out there and play. She used to leave high school for a couple of days and be competitive. And it didn't happen this year."
The Sony Open still will have a couple of teenagers from Hawaii in the tournament that starts Jan. 10.
One exemption went to Tadd Fujikawa, who last year became the youngest player in 50 years to make a cut on the PGA Tour. The Sony Open also saves an unrestricted exemption for the low amateur in local qualifying. That went to 17-year-old Alex Ching, Wie's former classmate at Punahou School.
Wie and Ching were teammates in the Pro-Junior Skills Challenge last year at the Sony Open, which they won in a playoff. Not many could have guessed then that Ching would be the one who returned.