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More discussion about Michelle Wie's PGA appearances

Michelle Wie's unfortunate withdrawal from last week's John Deere Classic because of heat exhaustion has heightened the debate over her role in men's events.

There is no doubt the 16-year-old prodigy from Hawaii is one of the biggest draw cards in the game.

Wie's prodigious length off the tee, creativity in shot-making, statuesque poise and love of fashion mark her out as a public relations dream.

Just like world number one Tiger Woods, Wie lures huge galleries out on the course regardless of how well she is playing.

A relatively low-key event like the John Deere, which struggles to attract the leading players because of its time slot one week before the British Open, gains immeasurable marketing benefit through her participation.

But despite all these positives, Wie has attracted growing criticism for playing in men's events.

Last week's John Deere Classic was her fifth foray on the PGA Tour, and the ninth time she has taken on the men in a professional tournament.

She is yet to make a PGA Tour cut and has qualified for the weekend only once, at the Asian Tour's SK Telecom Open in South Korea during May.

Many of her detractors believe she should be focusing her efforts on the women's LPGA Tour, where she is so far winless.

Remarkably, she has not claimed a title of any description since the 2003 U.S. women's amateur public links championship at the age of 13.

"I understand the buzz they're trying to create with Michelle," 2003 U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir said earlier this year.

"If they want to give her a shot, that's their prerogative. But at the same time, she hasn't made any cuts.

"I think maybe it's about time for her to really earn a spot. It would be nice if the tour would step in. There are guys who really need to play, really need events to get in."

Following Wie's withdrawal from the John Deere Classic after 27 holes on Friday, she was criticised for her slow progress by playing partner Jeff Gove.

"She didn't complain about anything," Gove told the Chicago Sun-Times. "She just said: 'I'm going to withdraw', which was good. She was holding us up again.  

"She has to learn to play faster and be more respectful of other players and things of that nature. If she has her name on her bag, she needs to be professional, and she's not there yet."

Gove's views are somewhat harsh given that Wie had been struggling with stomach pain, dizziness, nausea and breathing problems before she decided to quit the tournament after consulting a doctor.

The fact remains that tournaments will always benefit hugely with record crowds and extensive media coverage if the Hawaiian teenager is in the field.

Wie also makes the valid point that she is not a regular fixture on the LPGA Tour because of her age and prefers to be a free agent in deciding when and where to play.

"It's not like I'm a full-time member of the LPGA or a full-time member of the PGA," she said last week.

"I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do and I want to win an LPGA tournament and I want to play in PGA tournaments.

"I feel like I'm having a really good balance right now. I'm just going to do what I want to do and not really follow anything."

Wie will play in two more men's tournaments before the end of the year, the European Tour's European Masters from Sept. 7-10 and the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic the following week.

However she fares and whatever the reaction of her peers, the sponsors and the fans are almost certain to be happy.

July 18, 2006

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