Sunday, October 16, 2005

Michelle Wie Disqualified In First Tournament As a Pro

Move over Tomás de Torquemada, the Inquisition has a new leader in the person of Michael Bamberger, a reporter for Sports Illustrated.

Bamberger, following the completion of the LPGA Samsung World Classic Gold Tournament, told LPGA officials that he believed that Michelle Wie, playing in her first tournament as a professional, may have, after declaring an unplayable lie, taken a unfair drop that was closer to the hole than her original lie.

Required to investigate the accusation, officials first reviewed television video records of the incident. They determined that the video was "inconclusive."

Accordingly, they proceeded out to the course with Wie and her caddy and had them show exactly where the ball had been dropped. They then paced off the distance to the hole from the original lie and the drop. This too, apparently, was inconclusive.

Finally, they took string and laid it to the hole from both ball positions. by this means they were able to determine that the ball had been dropped 12-15 inches closer to the hole. (Wie later stated that she believed the distance had been 3 inches). This, according to the "rules of golf," meant that Wie should have added a 2-stroke penalty to her score. Since she signed that round's scorecard without that penalty included she was automatically disqualified.

Now, the 7th hole on the Palm Desert Bighorn Valley Course is a par 4, 400-yard hole. Assuming that Wie hit a 250 yard 3-wood shot into the bush, she would still have at least a 150 yard approach shot to the hole. This means that Wie dropped her ball leaving approximately 149.66 yards to the hole. This is an advantage worth disqualifying someone for?

So, the LPGA now has an Inquisition and a Grand Inquisitor. It has instant replay review and even taped review of actions taken over 24 hours earlier. It can disqualify a player based on possible mis-remembered ball placements nearly two competitive golf rounds earlier.

Can you imagine this being done in a professional baseball game (Sorry, tape review of last week's game shows that Bonds was out of the 1st base running path on his bunt single. His hit must now be recorded as an out, the runner at third did not score. The inning is declared to have been over and it is ruled that the Giants did not fairly win the game. The Dodgers are therefore declared to have won the game. Boxscores and league standings shall be changed to reflect this ruling")?

Professional football ("Sorry, it appears that the coach's left toe was over the sideline on the third play of the second quarter. This should have led to a five yard penalty and loss of down. The game must be forfeited")?

Professional tennis ("Sorry, it appears that the line judge and referee were wrong after all. The point should have gone to Lindsay Davenport. Serena Williams is therefore declared disqualified")?

Professional golf ("Sorry, although video tape review of yesterday's round was inconclusive, we went out with pieces of string, measured out the distance to the hole and determined that Michelle Wie was somewhere between 5/10,000 and 1.9/1,000's closer to the hole than she ought to have been. Wie is herebye disqualified")?

Oops. Sorry about that. They actually do this in professional golf!

You've got to be kidding me!

Can any professional golfer ever be sure they are actually going to be declared ineligible or not, even days after they have completed their round or even the tournament?

The LPGA should investigate and revoke this ridiculous, trivial, vindictive and outrageous ruling. It demeans the sport. It demeans the players. It demeans the spectators and the television viewers. It is a crock and a sham.

In addition, Michael Bamburger should be banned from all professional golf tournaments for years to come. He is a disgrace, a boor and an embarrassment to Sports Illustrated.

The only bright note in this debacle is Michelle Wie who, with grace beyond her just-turned 17 years of age (note: oops, I meant 16 years of age), responded to this injustice with humility and restraint. Her public comment after all of this?
"I learned a great lesson," Wie said, her voice choking with emotion. "From now on, I'll call a rules official no matter where it is, whether its 3 inches or 100 yards. I respect that."
The lesson I learned, unfortunately, is this: The spirit of golf is dead. Michael Bamberger and the LPGA killed it this afternoon.