PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Michelle Wie's pro debut made her
look like an amateur Sunday when she was disqualified for taking a
bad drop from the bushes in the third round of the Samsung World
Sorenstam closed with a 3-under 69 on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the desert to win the Samsung World Championship by eight strokes. Sorenstam, who finished at 18-under 270, won for the eighth time this season. Full story
Talk about a rude welcome less than two weeks after turning pro.
First, Annika Sorenstam blew away the field to win by eight
shots, even with a double bogey on the last hole.
Then, the 16-year-old Wie no sooner had signed for a 74 to
finish fourth -- $53,126 -- that LPGA Tour officials took her out to
the seventh hole to discuss a drop she took the day before.
Nearly two hours later, she was disqualified for signing an
incorrect scorecard. Because Wie dropped the ball closer to the
hole -- by 3 inches according to her, by about a foot according to
the rules officials -- she should have added two strokes to her
"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."
Wie hit a 5-wood into a Gold Lantana bush Saturday and was
barely able to find it. She told her playing partner, Grace Park,
she was taking an unplayable lie, dropped away from the bush, then
chipped to 15 feet and made the par. It was a critical par save,
and Wie steadied herself to get within five shots of the lead.
Michael Bamberger, a reporter for Sports Illustrated, told tour
officials Sunday afternoon that he was concerned about the drop.
Rules officials Jim Haley and Robert O. Smith reviewed tape from
NBC Sports before taking Wie and caddie Greg Johnston to the
seventh green after the tournament ended Sunday.
"If I had to make the ruling based on the videotape, to me it
was inconclusive," Smith said.
He had Johnston and Wie show him where the ball was in the
bushes, then where they dropped. They paced it off, then used
string to measure the distance and determined it to be slightly
"The Rules of Golf are based on facts," Smith said. "They had
to tell us where it was. The fact was, the ball was closer to the
hole by 12 to 15 inches."
Wie took three unplayable lies during the tournament, all
without the help of rules officials. She twice asked for help,
including a favorable ruling from Haley on Friday when she asked
for a free drop because of bees swarming in a desert bush on the
She took this drop with confidence, placing tees in the ground
from where her ball was in the bush, and within two club lengths of
that spot. Asked by Bamberger after the third round Saturday about
her drop, Wie said she used "the triangle thing to make sure that
you're not closer."
"I don't feel like I cheated," Wie said Sunday. "I was honest
out there. I did what I thought was right. I was pretty confident.
If I did it again, I'd still do that. It looked right to me."
Johnston, who has spent the last 12 years caddying for Juli
Inkster, got into a heated discussion with Bamberger as Wie and her
family left Bighorn in a steady rain.
Johnston was bothered that Bamberger, who was at the seventh
green when Wie took the drop, waited a day before raising it with
tour officials. Had she been notified Saturday before signing her
card, she would not have been disqualified.
Bamberger said he paced it off after Wie, playing in the final
group Saturday, finished the hole.
"I did it in crude way -- 'Let's see what she has to say.' I was
hopeful she could convince me," in the Saturday interview,
Bamberger said. "I thought about it more and was just
uncomfortable that I knew something. Integrity is at the heart of
the game. I don't think she cheated. I think she was just hasty."
Asked why he didn't bring it up before the third round ended,
Bamberger said, "That didn't occur to me. I was still in my
reporter's mode. I wanted to talk to her first."
Ultimately, Wie made quite a splash in her professional debut --
just not the way she intended. And she wound up stealing all the
attention from Sorenstam, who turned in one of her most dominant
performances of the year.
Sorenstam cares more about winning than sending emphatic
statements, yet she managed to do both Sunday.
"It's obviously very satisfying," Sorenstam said. "It's a big
week for many reasons."
Asked about those reasons, she talked about joining Mickey
Wright as the only players to win the same tournament five times
since the LPGA Tour began in 1950 and clinching the LPGA Tour money
But there was more.
"I want to play well when everyone is talking about someone
else," she said. "I'm very competitive."
She started with a four-shot lead over Gloria Park, built her
lead to nine shots at the turn and led by as many as 10 shots until
hitting into the desert and making double bogey on the last hole
for a 3-under 69.
Even that became a mess.
The LPGA Tour posted her score as 68 with a bogey on the last
hole, and no one knew she made double bogey until her press
conference. The volunteer keeping score didn't realize Sorenstam
took a penalty shot for an unplayable lie, and while Sorenstam
signed for the right score, it wasn't verified because the rules
officials were busy with Wie.
Lost in the disqualification was Sorenstam's eighth victory of
the year. She finished at 18-under 270 to finish eight shots ahead
of 19-year-old rookie Paula Creamer, and earn $212,500, pushing her
over $2 million for the fifth straight season. She also wrapped up
her eighth LPGA Tour player of the year award.
Creamer, whose two victories this year include a seven-shot win
in France, holed a wedge shot for eagle on the 12th hole and shot
70 to finish second.
"I know what it feels like now to be just crushed," Creamer
said. "Annika was probably just sending a statement to the world
saying, 'I'm still here. I'm still the best player.' "