Missing in action

STEPHEN RIPLEY

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

Anyone out there remember Michelle Wie? Tall girl, golfer?

For those with short memories, Wie was supposed to be the greatest female golfer of all time. After winning the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship in 2003 at the tender age of 13, she was touted as the next Tiger Woods, signing a multimillion-dollar Nike contract and receiving several invitations to play in men's events.

Four years later, all Wie has to show for her efforts is a lot of money and a sore wrist. She missed the cut in each of the six PGA tournaments to which she was invited and has failed to win a single LPGA event, watching fellow youngsters Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer blow past her in the rankings. It's been almost a year since she last broke par in competition.

It might be a bit early to perform last rites on Wie's career -- she is only 17, after all -- but fans and the media are already starting to carve the tombstone. If this really is the beginning of the end, at least she can take comfort in all those millions she hasn't earned, as well as the knowledge that she won't be the first can't-miss athlete who has vanished into thin air.

10. Don Majkowski

The Wally Pipp to Brett Favre's Lou Gehrig, the "Majik Man" had a huge 1989 season for Green Bay, passing for 4,318 yards and 27 touchdowns. But injuries, ineffectiveness and the emergence of Favre doomed Majkowski's once-promising career with the Packers. He bounced around the league as a backup for a few seasons, but never again came close to the success he enjoyed in that one "majikal" season.

9. Marcelo Rios

Undoubtedly the worst player ever to hold the No. 1 ranking on the ATP Tour, Rios wholeheartedly embraced the stereotype of the petulant tennis pro, getting into a number of off-court brawls and refusing at the last minute to carry his country's flag at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Despite never winning a major, the pony-tailed Chilean inexplicably rose to No. 1 in 1998, then saw his ranking plummet into the 300s over the next few years until his retirement in 2004.

8. Todd Marinovich

Raised by his father, a former NFL lineman, to be the "perfect quarterback," Marinovich instead became known as one of the biggest busts in football history. After appearing as a high schooler in the pages of Sports Illustrated, Marinovich showed flashes of brilliance under centre with the USC Trojans. He was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1991, but played horribly and was out of the league the following year. His run-ins with the law included sexual assault and drug arrests, as well as a 2005 incident in which he tried to flee police on a child's bicycle after being found in possession of child pornography and drug paraphernalia.

7. Dennis Miller

Believe it or not, there was a time when this guy was considered funny. After winning acclaim for his work on Saturday Night Live and his own HBO talk show, it looked like Miller was on top of the world when he was chosen to do colour commentary on Monday Night Football in 2000. Two awkward seasons and 300 Nietzsche references later, he was unceremoniously dumped from the show, subsequently reinventing himself as some kind of barking-mad Bush apologist, dancing for nickels on ultra-right Fox News shows such as The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes.

6. George Mallory

Famous for answering "Because it's there" when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, Mallory was the pre-eminent mountaineer of his era. In 1924, on his third attempt on the world's highest peak, Mallory and climbing partner Andrew Irvine went missing and never returned. Even after his body was discovered in 1999, nobody could say for sure whether he -- and not Edmund Hillary in 1953 -- was the first to scale Everest.

5. Warren Young

Playing alongside fellow rookie Mario Lemieux, Young scored 40 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1984-85 season. He promptly cashed in on his good fortune, signing a free-agent deal with the Detroit Red Wings. By 1987, he was out of the league, having scored a total of 30 goals without Lemieux as his linemate.

4. Joe Charbonneau

During his sensational debut season in 1980, "Super Joe" batted .289 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI, winning rookie of the year honours and the hearts of Cleveland fans. But his promising career was derailed in 1981 by a back injury in spring training, which eventually led to his becoming the first rookie of the year to be demoted to the minors the next season. He was out of baseball by 1983.

3. Bill Barilko

Toronto Maple Leafs fans know the story by heart: In 1951, young defenceman Bill Barilko scored the winning goal in overtime to clinch the Leafs' fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Four months later, he boarded a small plane for a fishing trip to Northern Ontario and was never seen again. The mystery of his whereabouts gradually turned into the curse of Bill Barilko, as the once-mighty Leafs foundered. It wasn't until 1962, the year the wreckage of his plane was finally found, that Toronto would win another Cup.

2. Jacques Villeneuve

Call it the curse of Larry Walker, who was beaten out by Villeneuve (some would say his car, really) despite putting together one of the finest offensive seasons in baseball history and winning the National League MVP in 1997. The crown which voters found more dazzling was the Formula One championship, which Villeneuve captured after an impressive four years on tracks around the world, during which he also won the Indianapolis 500 and the CART championship. But in the decade since his triumph, Villeneuve didn't win another race, eventually losing his ride in 2006.

1. David Duval

It's hard to believe it now, but this guy was once the No. 1 golfer in the world, having racked up 13 wins in his first seven seasons on the PGA Tour. But then, practically the day after he won the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham, Duval's game simply disappeared. Whatever the reason -- nagging injuries, family commitments and a bout with vertigo have all been fingered -- the player who once shot a 59 now struuggles to break 80. Unfortunately for car-wreck fans, Duval announced earlier this week that he won't be playing in this year's Open.


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