February 17, 2008

Wie Bashing begins early / Players get  shafted…

It is sort of fitting that the first column of the New Year would start with one of my favourite targets of abuse, Michelle Wie.

Another year begins and once again our little airhead is attempting to justify her existence (and the millions of dollars paid to her by overzealous sponsors) in professional golf.

Just to recap the soap opera...

Wie "injured" both wrists last year and kept playing, making only three cuts and breaking par twice in 19 rounds against the women. She also demonstrated unbelievable gall by getting into Annika Sorenstam’s face by withdrawing from an event to avoid a year suspension for an unacceptably high score and then showing up to practice at the next tournament course the following day.

But the difference this year is that her swing coach, David Leadbetter, says her wrists are healed and she appears to have lowered her sights a bit by not trying to compete against the men. At least not yet.

Wie will accept a "sponsor’s exemption" into LPGA The Fields Open at Ko Olina. This is a good sign and we can only hope that someone has hammered some logic into that little pea brain between her ears.

Unfortunately, Wie will continue to get hammered by the media for trying to exist on sponsor’s exemptions (she has five this year) and not going through Q-School like other players on the Tour. Granted, if she wins a few events, she can grab a permanent spot on the Tour, but Q-School is like a rite of passage - if you make it through, you know you belong out there. She can also try to qualify for the US Women's Open and British Open.

Another bigger problem is that Wie isn’t "special" any more, especially since Morgan Pressel has already won a major. She is going to have to earn the spotlight now by showing that she can win.

Ok, onwards to other things…

Big Jeff Puchalski took time out from enjoying some "awesome salsa and beautiful weather in Dalat" to e-mail me some information about a new club from Callaway called "I-mix".

What makes this different from other clubs is players can change the shaft as the need arises without having to visit a professional club-fitter and surprisingly, the USGA and R&A didn’t utter a peep.

Normally, the rules do not allow for adjustable clubs, but I guess a precedent was set when TaylorMade introduced the R6 and R7 lines which featured adjustable weighting screws in the club head.

The governing bodies ruled that as long as the club is not ‘adjusted" during the round, it is permissible. Ok, fair enough.

Of course, these "special" shafts cost quite a bit because otherwise, club manufacturers would lose a lot of money as players wouldn’t buy new drivers every time a new one came out. If they weren’t satisfied with their old club’s performance, they’d just snap in a new shaft.

But I think its the professionals who would benefit the most from this new technology.

On a windy, dry course I could snap in a X-flex with a high kick-point which would help the shot bore into the wind. On a wet course with few trees, I’d go with a softer shaft, perhaps an R-4 with a low kick-point to give me more carry.

It is obvious that the manufacturers reached the limit of what they can do with technology and have been searching for new ways to get into player’s pockets.

While this is considered "good business" and can benefit average weekend players, the more important question is "should it?"

From one standpoint, it can be argued that better equipment allows "Joe Hacker" to have a great time out there and encourages more newcomers to play.

On the other hand, what made golf different from other sports was the singular concept that "golf was a game of character" as well as a test of skill.

Technology renders skill secondary and allows players to "buy a better golf game" but does not inspire players to improve themselves.

If the golfers actually had to work on their games, they would be better all around players regardless of the equipment and might even learn something important...

Like the benefits of self-improvement and the joy of accomplishment.

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