Michelle Wie shoots back
Michelle Wie is standing her ground.
After arriving in Evian-les-Bains, France, for this week's LPGA Evian Masters, the 21-year-old American with a boatload of hype and two LPGA tournament wins was quickly put on the defensive.
During her last competition, the U.S. Women's Open two weeks ago, in which she finished tied for 55th, Wie took heat from two of women's golf's most distinctive voices.
Hall of Fame great Annika Sorenstam, asked about Wie in a press-room interview, suggested Wie, who is preparing for her senior year at Stanford, does not concentrate sufficiently on golf to be an elite player.
Meanwhile, Dottie Pepper, an NBC commentator, appeared on the Golf Channel and dropped a hammer by saying, "I think she has not performed up to her physical talents. Not even close."
Invited to the Evian media room for an interview before Thursday's opening day, Wie had a chance to respond.
"I think that just looking back at my stats and tournaments that I've played, this year I've played in every single one, every single one this year except one tournament," she told reporters. "So I've been doing my best with those as well as I can.
"Obviously I want to be the best player that I can be; I want to win majors; I want to win tournaments; and I'm working very hard at that," she said. "Right now that's my No. 1 goal, especially during the summer. And even if I'm at school, you know, I don't go to school full time. I have to go part time because obviously I do play, and I play in almost every tournament."
Wie became a household name as a teen. She turned pro in 2005 and made a number of appearances in PGA Tour events, none with any success. After turning 18 and getting LPGA membership, she was expected to become an immediate star. Instead, even with the two victories, her accomplishments pale when compared to expectations.
Wie, however, defends the route she's chosen.
"Yeah, I think education has always been very important to me, especially ever since I was young," she said. "Knowledge and education, I believe it's a very powerful tool for young adults. I also believe that your sport, your career is also important. But I think that college is a lot more than just education and books.
"I think it was a very important step for me to go to Stanford and to experience actually living on campus, kind of making it on my own. For me, being out here spending a lot of time when I was younger, it forced me to grow up a lot faster. I think I needed that step in my life, and I don't regret any of it."
Busy days for Thompson
South Florida's Lexi Thompson, 16, turned professional last year and immediately petitioned the LPGA to waive the rule that requires players to be 18 or older for membership. Thompson's request was rejected last year, but she recently learned she will be allowed to attend this year's LPGA qualifying school.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that the first-round qualifier begins next week in Daytona Beach, Fla. -- two days after the Evian Masters wraps up.
If Thompson makes the cut -- she finished tied for second last year -- she will fly in from Paris, arriving just in time to play but not early enough for a practice round.
"Thank goodness she's young," her agent, Bobby Kreusler, said during the U.S. Women's Open.
Thompson doesn't seem to care.
"I've always wanted to be a pro," she said at the Open. "It's always been my dream. I will never regret that decision."
Shin hoping to repeat
Defending champion Jiyai Shin posted scores of 70-69-68-67--274 to finish 14 under last year, one shot better than runners-up Thompson, Na Yeon Choi and Morgan Pressel.
Shin birdied the par-5 18th hole to earn the victory, her first of two during 2010 on the way to finishing the year with the world No. 1 ranking.
Shin has yet to win in 2011 and currently ranks No. 4.
The 111-player field this week reflects the global scope of women's golf. Thirty-one countries are represented, with large contingents from Korea, Japan and the United States.
All of the top-16 players in the world are entered, including No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 2 Cristie Kerr and No. 3 Suzann Pettersen.
Tseng, who has held the top spot in the Rolex Rankings since mid-February, became the youngest player in LPGA history to capture four major titles when she won the Wegmans LPGA Championship last month.
Major change coming?
Golfweek magazine recently reported that this week's Evian Masters will soon be announced as the LPGA's fifth major.
And you thought golf's majors only came in fours.
The PGA Tour promotes its Players Championship as golf's unofficial fifth major, although tour player Jeff Sluman once dissed that idea by famously asking: "When you go to Denny's and order the Grand Slam breakfast, they don't give you five things, do they?"
And the Champions Tour went to five official majors in 2003, adding the Senior British Open to a list that already included the Senior PGA Championship, U.S. Senior Open, Senior Players and Tradition.
So, why shouldn't the women?
"Evian is kind of a major [already] because the purse is so high," Kerr said two weeks ago.
Evian's $3.25 million purse -- $375,000 to the winner -- equals the U.S. Women's Open as the richest event of the schedule, and players rave about the week.
But having five majors is one thing. The problem is having five majors when there are only 25 or so events on the yearlong schedule -- meaning 20 percent of the season would be majors.
Already this year, the LPGA Championship, U.S. Women's Open and next week's Women's British will be contested within a six-week stretch.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan recently said he wants a future schedule of at least 32 events, and negotiations are under way to reach that number.
Still, golf major championships seem a lot like boxing championship belts -- who doesn't have one?
A look at the course
In 1904, the Evian Mineral Water Company purchased the farm property and developed a nine-hole course as part of a hotel/resort project.
At an altitude of more than 1,600 feet, the golf course was one of the first in France and became an immediate success with visitors enchanted by its magnificent views.
Another nine holes were added in 1922, and a complete redesign took place in 1988.
The first Evian Masters was held in 1994, and it became an official LPGA event in 2000. Helen Alfredsson won the inaugural 1994 tournament, and Sorenstam won the 2000 LPGA debut.
Alfredsson is the event's only three-time winner, having also won in 1998 and 2008. Sorenstam and Laura Davies are the only other multiple champions.
Also of note: Natalie Gulbis' first LPGA win came at the 2007 Evian.