Sorenstam Takes Shot at Wie

annika sorenstam - lpga championship
"I just feel there's a little bit of lack of respect and class just to leave a tournament like that and then come out and practice here, especially being the hostess," said Annika Sorenstam of 17-year-old Michelle Wie, who withdrew after 16 holes of a tournament last Thursday. (David Cannon - Getty Images)
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md., June 5 -- Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sorenstam on Tuesday pointedly criticized the manner in which Michelle Wie withdrew from an LPGA tournament in South Carolina last week. But Wie, scheduled to play here Thursday in the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock, later defended her actions and said, "I don't think I need to apologize for anything."

After 16 holes in her first round this past Thursday at the Ginn Tribute, hosted by Sorenstam in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Wie withdrew, citing an injury to the left wrist she said she had initially fractured in February while falling during a workout. A 17-year-old native of Hawaii who recently graduated from high school, Wie is a professional but not a member of the LPGA and was playing the Ginn event on a sponsor's exemption.

Competing in her first tournament since the injury, Wie was 14 shots over par and in jeopardy of shooting a score of 88 or higher at the time she withdrew. LPGA rules specify that any non-LPGA member who posts 88 or worse in a tournament round is barred from playing in another LPGA event for the remainder of that season.

"I just feel there's a little bit of lack of respect and class just to leave a tournament like that and then come out and practice here, especially being the hostess," Sorenstam said during a news conference Tuesday. Wie was practicing here at Bulle Rock on Saturday.

"I don't know the situation, if it's injury or whatever it is," Sorenstam continued. "It just seemed really weird. I know what it's like to be injured. When I was injured [she recently took seven weeks off to heal a back injury], I wasn't able to touch golf clubs for weeks. It's a little funny that you pull out with an injury and then you start grinding. My doctor told me to rest."

Asked if she had similar suspicions that "Rule 88" may have been a factor in Wie's decision to withdraw, Sorenstam said, "I have no idea what it is, but I know that being a hostess of an event and when you get a sponsor invite, I think you have some responsibilities to the sponsor, to the organizer."

A golfing prodigy who has been playing in professional events against men and women since 2002, Wie entered the media room about 45 minutes after Sorenstam spoke. In a slightly quivering voice, she said she wanted to make a statement before she answered any questions.

"The reason why I withdrew was because of my left wrist injury, and I should have quit earlier," Wie said. "I should have stopped playing when I tweaked it on the 10th hole. But as stubborn as I am, I just kept playing because I wanted to play. It was my first event [since the injury]. I was like, 'Hell no, I'm not quitting, I can do better than that.' And I just kept going, but I regret not quitting before.

"The reason I withdrew last week was to be able to play this week. I really want to play this week and I feel like . . . the bones are completely healed, so it won't do any good taking anymore time off. I have to gain more competitive experience. . . . I just feel like I have to play in tournaments to get back in the competitive mode."

Asked if she had been aware of Rule 88, she said: "No, I mean I don't think about [shooting] 88. I mean, that's just ridiculous. I'm not going out there, 'Oh, I can't [score] 88 today.' I'm not out there for that. . . . I think I made a smart decision to save my wrist and work on my wrist and play well this week."

Sorenstam said she had not spoken with Wie since the incident last week, "but if she would talk to me, I would definitely talk to her." Wie was later asked if she felt she owed Sorenstam an explanation.

"I mean, well, I just don't think I need to apologize for anything," Wie said. "It's just I played bad but that's what golf is. . . . Unfortunately I played bad on that week; I wasn't playing like myself. My wrist was not the way I wanted it to be. It just wasn't feeling good the whole day. So you know, I don't really feel like I have to apologize for anything. I just have to take care of my body and move forward and only think of positive things."

But the negative kept intruding Tuesday. Wie also confirmed that there were conversations between her camp and Commissioner Carolyn Bivens earlier in the day regarding Wie's interaction, or lack of it, with her playing partners in a pro-am event here Monday. Bivens spoke with Wie's father, B.J., and her agent, Greg Nared. Wie was not in the meeting.

"Yes, they [her pro-am partners] did have a conversation with her and I think it was very insulting because I tried my best," Wie said. "It's my sixth year out here already and I played in numerous pro-ams and I think it's ridiculous to make any false accusations about me. . . . But, I mean, what can I do? I know I took a lot of effort. It was a lot of fun to interact with them and I helped them read a couple of putts. . . . I thought it was very insulting that somebody made a false accusation about me like that. I just hope [Bivens] gets better information."

Wie declined to say what the complaint had been and advised reporters to ask Nared or Bivens.

Nared said, "You should talk to the commissioner" before leaving the media tent. Bivens did not make herself available to comment. She said through a tour spokesman that she also would not reveal what the complaint had been.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company