Bunker Mentality

Wie’s golf game continues to decline at an alarming rate

Bunker Mentality

"I might not be playing. I might be burned out. I'm not a person who 24 hours a day can only think, live, eat and breathe golf. I'm not that kind of a person. If I did that, I might be fed up with it."

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To be one of the greatest athletes in any particular sport takes some incredible dedication and sacrifice. It doesn't happen overnight.

Sure, there's some God-given talent that certainly plays a role, but to be the best, you have to push yourself to unimaginable levels. It's one of the reasons Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, to name a few, were so great at their craft: they knew what it took to be the best, and they were willing to do whatever it took to make it to the peak.

For the longest time we thought Michelle Wie was cut from the same cloth -- a young phenom who, at the ripe age of 13, became the youngest golfer to ever make the cut at the U.S. Women's Open. A year later she missed the cut by one at the PGA Tour's Sony Open, shooting 68 in the second round against a bunch of guys who were old enough to be her dad.

At 14 people figured she was destined for greatness, a young super-teen who had all the attributes to be a star. A 6'1" frame to bomb the ball? Check. Good looks? Check? Incredible game? Check. She appeared to be the complete package.

It was never a question of "if" with Michelle Wie; it was only a question of "when." When was she going to live up to the incredible hype that was placed upon her.

After eight years of up and down play, we're still waiting for Wie to fulfill those expectations. Like a lot of phenoms, the now-22-year-old got lost along the way. Blame it on the pressure to succeed from a young age and an ambitious tournament load, but the last eight years have been anything but memorable.

Despite winning in 2009 and 2010 on the LPGA and posting at least a top-three finish in every LPGA major, this year has been especially trying for Wie, who missed the cut on Friday at the Wegmans LPGA Championship with an abysmal 12-over 82, her worst round of 2012.

For the week, Wie hit a total of nine fairway, and needed 66 putts (including 37 during the second round) to get around Locust Hill Country Club. The putting woes and the lack of consistency have been a growing trend in Wie's game over the last couple of years, as she tried to balance getting a degree from Stanford and contending on the LPGA.

The detractors kept saying Wie was making a mistake by passing on playing golf full-time to be a full-time student, but if you've seen or read the stories about Wie in the last couple of years, you'd know that's far from the case. If anything, Wie grew up. She turned into a well-rounded twentysomething; the kind of person we all thought she'd never turn into when she was having temper-tantrums on the course as a teenager.

It makes you wonder with all the strides she's made to better herself off the course why her game continues to sag. She's only made two cuts this year in seven stroke-play events, so there's clearly something going on.

Plenty will say it has everything to do with her putting and accuracy off the tee. And they'd be correct to make that assumption. Wie's currently 144th on tour in putting average (32.5 per round) and 140th in putts per GIR (2 per hole). She's also 147th in driving accuracy (45 percent) and 131st in greens in regulation (56 percent).

The stats tell a story of a player who's completely lost her game. But what if this has nothing to do with on-course struggles and everything to do with just not waiting to be the best anymore?

This may sounds crazy, but maybe in the midst of growing up and learning how to be her own woman, Wie decided that the most important thing in life wasn't golf. I know that sounds crazy, but just look at some of her quotes over the last couple of years (including the opener to this post).

That doesn't sound like a girl who's dead-set on being the best. If anything, she's trying more than ever to bring some balance to her life. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Michelle Wie may never live up to her lofty expectations. She has a long way to go before we call time on her career, but that could certainly happen. But the way she talks and acts nowadays, she may still come out ahead in the long-run. It just may not be on the golf course.

Jonathan Wall, Yahoo! Sports

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