For a clear summary of where Wie stands, check out the following by Brent Kelley, About.com's golf guide (who's also written the definitive pieces on the Women's British Open/Reno-Tahoe controversy and the State Farm DQ). If only Golf Observer's Sal Johnson were as sensible and level-headed as Kelley in his own Wie piece. Instead, he implies the existence of a Bivens-Wie feud:
But the mystery in all of this is still the reaction that the LPGA Tour has given her. Instead of embracing the potential and what Wie could do to grow the LPGA to new levels, she seems to get the cold shoulder of their czar Carolyn Bivens.
Johnson goes on to claim without substantiation that things were different when Laura Baugh was The Next Big Thing. And he agrees with Geoff Shackelford that Bivens showed too little sympathy for Wie's failure to sign her card after her 2nd round in the State Farm. But he also acknowledges that the LPGA was right to DQ Wie, suggests the Wie camp has been dismissive toward the LPGA, and concedes, "At this time I see no way for Biven's [sic] to give any kind of help to Michelle."
So Johnson would have been better off sticking to his conclusion that Wie holds her fate in her hands this week and that a solo 4th or better would pretty much guarantee her full LPGA membership in 2009--and leaving Bivens out of it. But since he did go there, he would have been better off suggesting what Bivens could do in the future to make it easier for Wie (and, for that matter, any other non-member) to join the LPGA. As my previous speculation on these matters didn't pan out, I'll offer a simple list this time:
1. Institute a "battlefield promotion" rule on the Futures Tour: offer immediate exempt status on the LPGA once someone wins her 4th tournament in a season there (if she wasn't already a non-exempt member of the LPGA, the following year would be her official rookie season).
2. Listen to Steve Elling: allow winnings in all events that count toward the LPGA money list for LPGA members to also count for non-members when determining membership eligibility for the following season (while reducing the maximum allowable number of sponsors' exemptions to 5 and requiring the equivalent of a top 70 finish on the money list, in order to make this enough of a challenge for non-members).
3. Open up the 36-hole "U.S. qualifier" for the Women's British Open at the Jamie Farr to everyone in the field (not just LPGA members).
4. Allow 5 exemptions each from the Korean LPGA, LPGA of Japan, and Ladies European Tour into the final qualifying tournament of the LPGA Q-School (each tour would thus get half what the Futures Tour gets).
The effect of these changes would be to level the playing field for non-members and thereby encourage the best women golfers in the world to go for LPGA membership.
Now, should Wie not play well this week, she has until September 9th to submit her entry into Q-School. I've heard that new criteria for LPGA membership are coming down the pike, but this is the first hint I've seen of what they might be:
Purpose of Competition
To determine those who will be offered Tournament Division Membership in the Ladies Professional Golf Association with priority status for the 2009 season. The top 20 qualifiers will receive priority status in Category #11. The top 20 players will alternate with players 81-90 on the 2008 LPGA Official Money List. In addition, qualifiers finishing in position #21-30 will receive priority status in category 16 and qualifiers in position 31-40 in category #20.
I haven't been able to find an explanation of categories 11, 16, or 20 (much less the other 17!). But this much is clear: Wie would have to work out with her professors what to do about her missed classes the week of the CA sectional qualifier (9/16-9/19). And since the final qualifying tournament (12/1-12/7) comes after Stanford's Thanksgiving break and during its End-Quarter Period, she'd have to manage her time well to do well in her finals the following week. (And hope that she has no exams on Monday and Tuesday, as qualifiers must attend a mandatory orientation both days.)
Much better to make like Ji-Yai Shin and win this week. Annika Sorenstam, who opened with a 31 on the back and is -4 through her 1st 11 holes, and Hee-Won Han, who birdied 5 of her 1st 10 holes and is -3 through 14, might just have something to say about that, though....
[Update 1 (8/20/08, 8:28 pm): The LPGA has clarified its membership criteria.]
[Update 2 (8/21/08, 12:31 pm): I revisited some of these issues in an August 18th post on the Class of 2009.]
[Update 3 (9/8/08, 10:24 am): Forgot to mention here that I took a stab at analyzing the new priority status categories on August 21st.]
[Update 4 (9/11/08, 3:06 pm): Here are my initial thoughts on Wie and her top competition at the Mission Hills qualifier.]