TV column: Michelle Wie’s win worth wait – and lost sleep

SINGAPORE - MARCH 04: Michelle Wie of the United States of America wins the 2018 HSBC Women's World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club on March 4, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images) Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

TV column: Michelle Wie’s win worth wait – and lost sleep

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TV column: Michelle Wie’s win worth wait – and lost sleep

Some thoughts on the weekend’s televised golf:

LPGA fans who stayed up into the wee hours of Sunday morning were rewarded with some wonderful theater. From Angela Stanford opening with a front-nine 29 (she finished with 63) to Nelly Korda nearly backing up sister Jessica’s victory last week with her first LPGA victory to, finally, Michelle Wie winning for the first time since the 2014 U.S. Open, it was captivating viewing.

That led to an interesting conversation on Golf Channel’s pre-game show Sunday morning among anchor Ryan Burr and analysts Frank Nobilo and Mark Rolfing. Rolfing lives in Hawaii and offered some good perspective on Wie’s early years, when she was criticized for turning pro at age 15 and playing occasionally in PGA Tour events. Rolfing noted that she won the state Women’s Open by 12 strokes as a 12-year-old and had to turn pro just to find some competition.

Despite Wie’s many injuries and disappointments, Burr noted that she remains “iconic. That’s sounds crazy to say because before today, she had just the four LPGA wins. But everybody knows Michelle Wie. … She moves the dial, especially on the LPGA Tour, like no one else.”

That’s true, which is why I root for Wie. If she is successful, the LPGA will be the direct beneficiary. But as Nobilo noted, it hasn’t been easy for Wie.

“I have no idea how Michelle has stuck at it in the public eye. …” Nobilo said. “It has to be suffocating. We haven’t allowed her to live in some respects. If you say (she’s an) underachiever or done, we are also responsible for holding her back.”

Next time, try ‘Google’

About two months ago, Golf Channel executive vice president Molly Solomon talked about what went into preparing her staff to work on NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage. That included reviewing weekly reports from NBC’s Olympics research department with information “you can’t find even if you Google somebody,” Solomon said.

Something like that would have come in handy at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Shubhankar Sharma, a 21-year-old from India playing in his first WGC tournament, held the 54-hole lead. It was one of the most unlikely stories since New Zealand’s Michael Campbell held the lead entering the final round of the 1995 British Open.

Sharma comes from a country with 1.35 billion people, but little history in golf. Had he won, it would have been a huge international story. And yet, I felt as if I didn’t learn much about him over the course of the tournament. Sharma’s father was at the tournament, but we never heard from him. Nor did we get any other insights into Sharma – nothing more than a recounting of his recent success on the European Tour. That seemed like a missed opportunity.

Feherty 1, Koch 0

Early in the final round from Mexico City, NBC showed a slow-motion replay of Phil Mickelson making contact on approach shot.

“This is always fun to watch how the players get the ball first and then take the divot, unlike most of the viewers out there who happen to get the ground first,” Gary Koch said.

I’m sure Koch thought he was being funny (he wasn’t); instead, he sounded condescending. I suspect if NBC studied its demographics, it would find that a substantial percentage of its viewers are low-handicappers who play more than 75 rounds per year. And most of the other viewers aspire to be that. Rather than snickering at his audience, a better approach for Koch would be to say simply, “Take note of how Phil strikes the ball first, then the ground.” That’s all Koch needed to say. He didn’t need to insult his audience.

Here’s a better approach. On the par-3 seventh, David Feherty described Mickelson’s strategy on the tee shot.

“He’s decided to hit one off the deck here, which is not something I’d recommend to amateurs,” Feherty said. “If you get an opportunity to use a tee, use it.”

Anchor Dan Hicks asked why Mickelson would choose not to use a tee.

“Phil works these things so scientifically, the ball goes a little farther if you hit it off the deck, and depending if you’re into the grain or against the grain, it will go a little farther or shorter,” Feherty said.

After Mickelson hit his tee shot pin-high, Hicks asked Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson’s former caddie, for his thoughts. Mackay agreed with Feherty’s assessment.

“I think Tim (caddie Mickelson) and Phil both felt whatever club he hit, I think it was 8 (iron), it was plenty of club, in fact a touch too much,” Mackay said. “(So) to take a little yardage off it, instead of hitting it off a tee, let’s go ahead and hit it off the ground to take a few yards off the shot.”

Both are small moments in the course of a four-hour live show, but worth noting. In the first instance, an announcer talked down to his audience, and was the lesser for it. In the second, Feherty and company educated their audience, and everyone was the better for it.

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