By Jim Brighters
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Here are some rantings from the world of professional golf. Sort of.
I started this column on Sunday night when Michelle Wie seemed to be on her way to a fourth-place finish in her professional debut. Then, two hours later, I heaped this bad boy into the cyber trash receptacle because a funny thing happened.
As I pondered at the LPGA.com leaderboard I noticed her name was gone. Bad mistake, I thought. You might want to include the name of the future of women's golf in her first event.
Then I heard the news. She got disqualified. That will certainly make for a memorable debut. Take $53,126, flush it promptly in the hopper, then try to save face.
Wie did admirably. She is a 16-year-old girl who was devastated, shocked and embarrassed all at once. You could see she might have shed some tears, but the kid pulled it together and answered everything lobbed at her.
So how did this all happen? Let's look at the facts, as I understand them.
Michelle Wie deserved to be disqualified from her first pro tournament, and she left with nothing but a lesson learned.
Wie hit it in the bushes on the seventh hole Saturday and took an unplayable lie. Wie dropped (you are supposed to drop from somewhere that is at least parallel to your shoulder, she did not) and played her next shot.
Enter "Sports Illustrated" reporter Michael Bamberger, who was following Wie during that round. Bamberger is a former caddy and thought the drop was shaky because the ball seemed closer to the hole.
Everyone goes to sleep on Saturday, and Bamberger feels upset because of the drop still on Sunday morning. Needs to talk to somebody, so he seeks tournament officials and after the round they get Wie and her caddy, Greg Johnston, and head out to seven.
The two explain what happened and tournament officials determine that her drop landed the ball closer to the hole. It should have been a two-shot penalty, but Wie did not call it on herself. She actually made a nice par save, but since she didn't include the necessary penalty strokes, Wie signed an incorrect scorecard.
Automatic disqualification and wave bye-bye to your check.
Now, lets' analyze this a little further. First, I absolutely despise in the highest order when people outside of golfers or tournament officials bring some type of rules infraction up. Fans call tournament sites or in this case, an observer following the proceedings. It's none of your business, truthfully. Some guy laying on the couch eating pork grinds should not take money out of a player's pocket. Who knows the rules better, a golfer, or a fan? Golfer/Fan? I'll go golfer. I hate it even more when they're right.
That being said what also frosted my cookies is that Bamberger, who I don't know or have any opinion of, waited a full day to come clean with his assertion. Here's how this could have gone if he spoke up on the day it happened.
Bamberger mentions something during the round, which is also tricky because that ruins the player's entire 18 holes and he would be vilified for that. Officials and Wie review the tape before she signs her card, realize the problem, add two shots and sign for a worse score than she thought. It's a bummer, but at least she's still in the tournament.
Bamberger claimed the reason he didn't bring it up on Saturday is that he wanted to talk to her first to see if Wie could convince him the drop was good. Brian Hewitt of The Golf Channel reported that Bamberger contacted his editor first, because Bamberger did not want to be part of the story and needed counsel. He just felt the drop was improper and was a stickler for the rules.
One thing is for sure, at the end of the day, everyone involved agreed that the drop was improper. Bamberger's timing stunk badly, but the claim he made ended up being correct.
That leaves the onus on Wie and Johnston. Even if Wie studies the rules book like it's her algebra textbook, she should have had a rules official with her for this. Wie thinks the ball moved three inches closer to the hole. Doesn't sound like much, but it is an infraction.
And how about Johnston? He's a veteran who has carried Juli Inkster's bag the last 12 years. He was basically brought in to guide Wie on the course and his first grade would be very low. Johnston has to be better than that.
Wie is a 16-year-old kid who got a masters degree in the rules of golf. She said in her press conference that she learned a lesson and you better believe Wie did.
Bamberger was also very clear that he did not, under any circumstances, believe Wie was trying to cheat. That's important because at 16, Wie doesn't want to get labeled and it smoothes things over a little for Bamberger.
After a case of really bad timing, the right thing, no matter how much it hurts, occurred. Wie deserved to be disqualified and it's over now. Her first pro tournament and she wins nothing. Kind of ironic, but lesson learned.
1.) What would you do if you were in the same position as Bamberger?
Hard to say. I don't really like to follow players on the course. I only get a sense of what is going on with that pairing and I like to have a better sense of the overall flow of the tournament. Honestly, I wouldn't have looked at something like that, so I can't imagine I would have even noticed. If I had, I probably wouldn't have said anything. The adage is to report the news, not be a part of it. Bamberger knows the rules better than I do, but I would have been silent. I kind of respect Bamberger a little for it. I just don't think I would have done it.
2.) There was another disqualification this week?
Yeah, Kevin Stadler got tossed from the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas. He had a non-conforming club as his sand-wedge had a bent shaft. Stadler was in fifth and needed the loot for his card next year, but he called the penalty on himself. Carting him off the course, Stadler looked like someone shot his newborn puppy. That hurts for a kid trying to earn a living.
3.) Why was this a big week for women?
If I were on VH1's "Best Week Ever," my vote for the Best Week would go to women golfers. Wie debuts as a pro, Annika Sorenstam wins by eight and ladies can play in the British Open. Top-five in one of your majors, and a woman can attempt to qualify for the British Open. Anyone who was top-five at this year's Women's British Open can also give it a go. They'll never win, but it could be fun. Plus, the pool is pretty small. It's basically Annika, Wie, Creamer, Kerr and a handful of others.
4.) Jim Furyk/Wes Short, Jr. playoff and the winner was...
Hands up, who liked Short in this one? No one? Good because he won. Furyk bogeyed the 72nd hole and hit an ugly five-iron into the water on the second playoff hole. Very, very uncharacteristic for the normally tough Furyk. Plus, I've picked Furyk the last two weeks and thought for sure I had a winner.
5.) How about Disney World?
Tiger. Although this is a birdie fest so anything can happen. I'll still take Tiger.
1.) Tiger Woods 2.) Phil Mickelson 3.) Retief Goosen 4.) Vijay Singh 5.) Sergio Garcia 6.) Chris DiMarco 7.) Jim Furyk 8.) Adam Scott 9.) Colin Montgomerie 10.) David Toms
1.) Hale Irwin 2.) Mark McNulty - I came so close to bumping him to one. I think week in, and week out, he's the best player on the Champions Tour. But Irwin is always in the hunt. 3.) Peter Jacobsen 4.) Tom Watson 5.) Dana Quigley 6.) Jim Thorpe 7.) Craig Stadler 8.) Loren Roberts 9.) Bob Gilder 10.) Jay Haas
1.) Annika Sorenstam 2.) Paula Creamer 3.) Michelle Wie - better consult an official every time your ball misses the fairway. Good learning experience. 4.) Cristie Kerr 5.) Natalie Gulbis - she is playing so well at the moment. Won the most money in LPGA Tour history this year without a win. Inevitable. 6.) Lorena Ochoa 7.) Pat Hurst 8.) Sophie Gustafson 9.) Birdie Kim 10.) Nicole Perrot
Annika had a problem with a rules official on Friday. She was in some choppy area and got relief. It wasn't as much as Sorenstam wanted and she complained pretty loudly. Cameras caught it all and Annika came off looking a little childish.
I would like to reiterate that I had started what was amounting to a pretty nifty story when the Wie matter went down. I was not pleased and thankfully my mom wasn't around because she would not have been happy with my language.