Michelle Wie: Quit Playing Games With the LPGA’s Heart
By Stephanie Wei under General

Just four days after the most important victory in the LPGA’s recent history, Michelle Wie withdrew from the LPGA Tour Championship, the final tournament of the season. Following her opening round of even-par 72, she stopped in the fitness trailer to treat the sore left ankle, an injury that’s plagued her since the Solheim Cup. The diagnosis? She needed an MRI. O-Wie!

Bad news. Even worse timing. Especially given all the hype about her first win coming just in time for the struggling LPGA and its less-than-satisfactory 2010 schedule. Let’s take a look at the bevy of articles on the topic:

  • Given the economic climate and the number of tournaments lost this year, [2010] could be the most important season in the history of the tour. And it could just be that Michele Wie is riding to the rescue at just the right time. — Ron Sirak, Golf Digest
  • We’ve been waiting all year. She had a good season, and then in one fell swoop, at one event with an amazing leaderboard, she beat all the best. It will help us in a big way. — David Higdon, LPGA chief of communications, via Bloomberg
  • The pressure on Wie to build on her breakthrough victory will be palpable this week. So many folks want her to succeed because she can be a Tigress Woods for the tour, relatively speaking. The tour desperately needs the jolt only she can give it because of the nature of her following. She reaches people beyond the sport in a way other players can’t. Wie’s success can benefit every LPGA pro out there by elevating the tour’s profile. — Randall Mell, Golf Channel
  • Michelle Wie’s breakthrough victory on the LPGA Tour has given the U.S. women’s circuit a timely boost after a season of economic struggle…In the 20-year-old Wie, however, the circuit has one of the biggest drawcards in the game, a gifted and long-hitting player who is beloved by television and sponsors alike. — Mark Lamport-Stokes, Reuters
  • The LPGA is having trouble signing domestic sponsors, yet Wie is internationally known, a marketable commodity. Americans had gone six months without winning an LPGA event, and Wie attracts fans like Phil Mickelson…Her win in Mexico might be the best thing that’s happened to golf since Eldrick T. Woods mumbled hello, world. — Steve Elling, CBS Sports

Without Michelle in the field, it seems the buzz was all for naught. Her win last week was undoubtedly a tremendous boost for the Tour (and of course, for her). But another win or top finish would have provided more much-needed momentum and perhaps swayed sponsors still on the fence to hand over the big bucks.

Now we must anxiously wait for next February when the LPGA kicks off its 2010 season in Singapore to see the Wonder Girl vie for another victory. Oh, let’s hope Michelle’s ankle recovers quicker than her wrist, too.

[Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images]