A Wie bit humble

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

Five years in the career of a golfer isn't really that long.

But for Michelle Wie, it's a huge segment of her painfully public life.

The last time she played a British Open at Royal Birkdale, the promise of what was to come seemingly was limitless.

As a 15-year-old amateur in 2005, she was touted as the female Tiger Woods, a can't-miss prospect who had the LPGA and sponsors salivating, lying in wait to exploit this natural resource.

And she didn't disappoint. Wie fired second and third rounds of 67 and closed with 69, after opening with 75, to finish the tournament at 10 under par. It was good enough to finish in a tie for third, six strokes back of winner Jeong Jang of Korea.

This time around, at the age of 20, Wie returns to Royal Birkdale a different player and a different person.

A wily vet of the LPGA Tour, she's older, wiser and far less controversial than she has been over her tumultuous career.

Dogged by constant criticism, much of it valid, as she negotiated the path from astonishing amateur to maligned multi-millionaire mogul, Wie did not apologize for indiscretions, both real and perceived.

She gladly accepted sponsors' exemptions on both men's and women's tours (she never played the weekend in eight PGA Tour starts), sparking complaints she was taking tournament spots away from other, more qualified players.

She didn't help matters, at times drawing the ire of her peers with statements likely made out of youthful exuberance, mixed with a tinge of confidence and arrogance.

She said she would like to play in the Ryder Cup and Masters some day (certainly to the horror of former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson).

She famously said that she "can beat Tiger when I'm 20," a ridiculous statement at a time when Woods was in his prime. (But maybe she knew something, foreshadowing Woods' demise this year ... perhaps she should ask him for that match!)

Those assertions were made when Wie was playing against men and thriving in the spotlight, but it was slights against her female counterparts which likely caused her the most damage.

She claimed she didn't watch the LPGA because she liked the players on the PGA better, which hardly endeared her to LPGA peers.

After she turned professional in 2005, her toiling on the women's tour was well documented, almost with delight. She hadn't earned much of what she had, in terms of sponsorship and star status and when her game faltered, the entitlement wore thin.

Now she's back. She has broadened her horizons by studying communications at Stanford University, and she actually had to earn her way back onto the LPGA Tour through qualifying school.

Wie even picked up her first career victory last year at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Gone are her brash ways, her opportunities to play alongside men (although, she says, not the willingness), and, some would say, her game.

She's ranked 12th in the world and is 21st on the LPGA money list, but it's a far cry from the dominance some predicted just five years ago.

Still, Wie remains confident.

"I wish I was doing better right now but I feel I'm getting better every week," she said recently. "... I'm proud of myself, even if I'm not playing my best. I'm out there giving it my all. Looking back with no regrets."

Maybe a matured Wie can put a charge into Royal Birkdale once again.

Canadian Open fallout

Carl Pettersson was the big winner at the Canadian Open, but the losses were painful for a pair of journeymen, Dean Wilson and Arjun Atwal.

Wilson, in the tournament on a sponsor's exemption at the urging of buddy Mike Weir, had a chance to get a two-year exemption but folded on Sunday. He did, however, get into this week's Greenbrier Classic with his second-place finish but he needs to play well with time running out. He vaulted 100 spots on the money list to sit at 110 and with few starts likely to be offered him for the rest of the season, he needs to move up to stay within the top 125 to get his card back.

The time has run out for Atwal, who was playing on a medical exemption. After failing to make the 54-hole cut, Atwal's extension ran out and he lost his PGA Tour card.


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