Debate renewed: Is Wie getting right experience?

Their tears have dried by now, the pain subsided. Kids, typically resilient, dust themselves off after falling down. And Michelle Wie is no different in that regard.

She was disappointed on Sunday after shooting 82 in the final round of the U.S. Women's Open to fall from a tie for the lead to a tie for 23rd. But she also managed to joke about the situation, that her golf ball did not know where to go during the final round at Cherry Hills Country Club.

"I have to give my ball a GPS,'' said Wie, who played in the second-to-last group with eventual champion Birdie Kim. "It was lost. It was confused. I couldn't get things going.''

Don't expect any repercussions. Wie is too good, too talented, to let her final-round meltdown linger. She will learn from the experience and be better for it.

But ... you can't help but wonder.

Had Wie been more accustomed to winning, might she have handled the third-round lead better?

It is a question that has been asked many times as Wie has emerged as such a compelling story.

Until Sunday, it was too difficult to really know.

Since Wie shunned junior golf -- and a lot of amateur golf -- in favor of competing in professional events, many have wondered if she was getting the right kind of experience.

It is hard to argue with her success, as three weeks ago she finished second to Annika Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship and Sunday held a share of the lead heading into the final round. She has made so many cuts on the LPGA Tour that she looks like she belongs.

And yet, Sunday might have been the first time she ever really felt any pressure on such a stage.

She had never previously had a realistic chance of winning one of those pro events heading into the final round. And unless you consider making the cut pressure -- in the early events, maybe -- Wie has had nothing to play for but pride on the weekends of many of these tournaments.

Nobody expects her to win at age 15, and everybody marvels at her ability to play at such a high level. She hits the ball a mile, but has become more than a curiosity. She has proved she can play. But with no paycheck on the line, what is the difference between fifth or 10th or 20th? How does she learn to play with the immense pressure of a tournament title on the line? Or needing to make a putt that could mean the difference of $100,000?

Many observers, from Tiger Woods to Nancy Lopez, have questioned Wie's approach. Woods dominated at the junior and amateur levels and played only a smattering of PGA Tour events before turning pro. Lopez, the LPGA Hall of Famer, used the example of Paula Creamer, 18, who dominated the American Junior Golf Association, winning more then a dozen titles. Last month, she captured her first LPGA Tour title.

Wie's coach, David Leadbetter, scoffs at the notion that playing against pros is hurting Wie, that she should beat her peers. Maybe he's right. Maybe Wie is different. Maybe she turns pro next year and all of this is so much about nothing. She certainly is not going to return to the junior circuit, where she would likely make a mockery of the competition.

But it might not hurt Wie to concentrate a bit more on the prestigious amateur events, and quit worrying, for now, about playing in PGA Tour events. At the amateur tournaments, Wie would be the prohibitive favorite. In match play tournaments, her opponents would have the feeling of nothing to lose. Go out every day facing an opponent who wants nothing more than to beat you ... now that's pressure. And it will only help Wie in the future.

Next week, she plays in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, where the only pressure she faces will be self-imposed. Nobody expects her to make the cut, let alone contend for the tournament title. The following week, she plays in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. She became the first woman to qualify for the USGA event, but again, making it through 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying would be an achievement. To think that she would advance through six matches to win the title is unrealistic. She will be a big underdog. It is a different mindset.

Then, it's on to two more LPGA events, including the Women's British Open, where Wie competes in her fourth major championship of the year.

The best test of them all will be the following week, assuming she can get back from England to play in the U.S. Women's Amateur near Atlanta. There, she is expected to win, a feeling she needs to embrace and conquer more often.

And when she does, the Sunday 82s will be rare.

Five Things To Bank On
1. Tiger Woods' first appearance since the U.S. Open at the Western Open is also his last official tune-up for the British Open. Look for his putting woes to be straightened out.

2. A top-20 finish will assure Woods of another milestone: reaching $50-million in career PGA Tour earnings. He needs $56,974.

3. U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell makes his first appearance since his victory at this week's European Open at the K-Club in Ireland, site of next year's Ryder Cup. Campbell will attempt to follow in Retief Goosen's footsteps. Last year, Goosen followed his Open victory with a win in Ireland.

4. Annika Sorenstam will bounce back at this week's HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship. The inaugural tournament has a 64-player field, with one match a day Thursday and Friday before the weekend.

5. Birdie Kim will get her first taste of life in the spotlight at the Match Play and will go in as the sixth seed after her Women's Open victory.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.