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Michelle Wie 101

PALM DESERT, Calif. – Welcome to the Michelle Wie School of Golf.

Today’s lesson is pretty simple: How to drive it right.

That’s right as in wide right, not right as in correct, although you would be correct in assuming that Wie is an expert in wide right.

Here in the opening round of the Samsung World Championship, played Thursday at Bighorn Golf Club, most of the Big Wiesy’s drives were right of Dick Cheney.

On one hole, the 4th, she hit a drive so far right that her Nike ball cleared a fence and left the property. See ya.

Keep in the mind that the fairways at Bighorn are about as wide as the Mississippi River. Courtesy of architect Tom Fazio, they are gigantic. Regardless, Wie couldn’t find most of them if she had a fairway-sniffing dog.

It was that kind of day. She shot 79, 7-over-par, for a 100 percent share of last place.

To top it off, she was playing on her 18th birthday. “I just feel like this year is going to be extra special because I will actually be a legal adult,” she said earlier in the week. “I’m very excited for that. I think that it’s time for a new beginning.”

And so she began the Samsung with a 79. As new beginnings go, it ranked right up there with cheese-free pizza and nonfat ice cream.

It could have been worse. Wie made her second birdie of the day with a curving 28-foot putt on the 17th. Then she saved par from a fairway bunker on the 18th.

Wie could teach all of us a thing or two about hitting the ball to the right. Even though she mostly abandoned her driver for a 3-wood, she still managed to miss eight of 14 fairways. Facing the widest fairways in women’s golf, she was a golfer in perpetual search of short
grass.

Still, she was quick to say, “Today was a fluke, tomorrow it will get back to normal.”

We’ll see about that. Spectators were left with a strong suspicion that she should concentrate immediately on college and forget about professional golf. At least for the present time.

On the first tee, the starter called her “the professional from Honolulu, Hawaii,” as if there weren’t any others. Too bad, because Wie’s recent habit of falling on her face – splat – makes us forget about all those majors in which she was a challenger before she became an official adult.

What we have here is a prodigy grown sour. Expiration date come and gone.

To make it worse, Wie was paired Thursday with 2007 LPGA Rookie of the Year Angela Park. The difference between their games was startling – 12 strokes (Park shares the first round lead with a 67), seven fairways (Park hit 13 of 14), nine putts (28 for Park, 37 for Wie).

Furthermore, the 19-year-old Park has what is often cited as the best swing in women’s golf. She looked relaxed and fluid. Wie, on the other hand, looked stiff and mechanical.

As a freshman at Stanford, where Wie lives in a dorm and her parents live in a house down the street, she is taking three subjects. She identified them as Introduction to Humanities, Calculus and Japanese, although they could just as easily be How to Drive it Right, How to Drive it Right of Right, and How to 3-putt with Ease (Wie had three
3-putts in the first round here).

She practices golf for two hours each day, although it should be clear by now that golf requires a fulltime commitment.

The Stanford men’s golf team is the reigning NCAA champion, so I am beginning to wonder what kind of classes they are taking. Probably How to Drive it Long, How to Drive it Straight, and How to Manhandle Par, classes that obviously were full by the time Wie tried to sign up.

Tiger Woods attended Stanford, learned all he could about golf in two years, and left.

My friend Brian Hewitt of The Golf Channel went to Stanford, and he clearly took the same courses that Wie is taking.

Now I am feeling cheated. While the elders at the University of Iowa taught me to write – OK, their success is debatable – they didn’t teach me how to suffer on the golf course. Wie, whether she likes it or not, is becoming an expert on the subject.

At the Michelle Wie School of Golf, the next stimulating lesson should be a blockbuster: How to Justify a Lousy Performance with a Convincing Speech.

If that doesn’t attract a crowd, perhaps the Michelle Wie School of Comedy will be next.

Did you hear the one about the girl whose parents actually followed her to college?

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