Wie has earned her spot on Solheim Cup team

August, 2, 2009

It should serve as a telling sign of the state of women's professional golf that on a day when Catriona Matthew earned her first career major championship victory at the Ricoh Women's British Open and 10 players solidified their positions on the United States Solheim Cup roster via the qualification process, perhaps the biggest news came when captain Beth Daniel named Michelle Wie one of her two extra selections to the team.

If there's one major knock against Wie -- and yes, for those who haven't paid much attention during the past half-decade, there is one major knock against the 19-year-old LPGA rookie -- it's that she's had everything handed to her on a silver platter throughout her career.

That is not an altogether invalid notion, considering her history of receiving sponsors' exemptions into PGA Tour events, and it's one that is likely to gain more momentum now that she has been added to the U.S. squad without earning her way to Rich Harvest Farms. Although those exemptions often served their purpose by garnering publicity for the event, Wie was often looked at as a charity case, especially when such attempts continued to promote her futility.

Not this time, though. Let's face it: Wie fully deserved the honor bestowed upon her.

At 13th on the final points list after the festivities at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Wie was named to the team ahead of Laura Diaz and Stacy Prammanasudh, the only players ranked higher who didn't automatically qualify. (The other captain's pick, Juli Inkster, was No. 16.) Then again, that's sort of a misleading number; while all other players earned points over a two-year rolling basis, the rookie had only this season in which to accumulate them. For 2009 alone, Wie ranked sixth in the standings.

Though she hasn't yet lived up to her potential nor fulfilled enormous expectations, Wie has enjoyed what can only be termed as a successful freshman campaign. She owns five top-10 results in 13 starts, including three of third place or better, and has banked more than a half-million dollars to date, currently placing her 17th on the money list. On Sunday, she fired a 3-under 69 -- tied for the second-best round of the day -- to finish in a share of 11th at the year's final major.

Of course, naysayers will be quick to point out that she still hasn't claimed that elusive initial professional victory; in fact, Wie hasn't won a tournament on any level since the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. It would be a worthy bone of contention in this latest matter if not for the pesky fact that nearly no American women are finding the winner's circle this season. Only Angela Stanford, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome and Pat Hurst have earned W's -- none more than once in the 17 LPGA events that have been contested and none since Kerr took the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill on May 10. Of those, Hurst was the lone player to fail to make the Solheim Cup team; she was 14th on the list, one spot lower than Wie.

This selection is less about past results, however, and more about choosing a horse for the course. At 6,670 yards on the scorecard, Rich Harvest Farms will serve as one of the lengthier venues on this year's LPGA schedule. Meanwhile, Wie happens to be one of the longer hitters on tour. Her average driving distance of 267.2 yards ranks fourth this season; only Lincicome is ahead of her among U.S. team members.

As for her inexperience in the team format, only time will tell how the first-timer will react to the bright lights of the big stage. It's not uncommon for a rookie to flourish in this type of event, though. Just ask former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, whose team was buoyed by newbies Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes en route to winning last year's competition at Valhalla.

Sure, on the surface it might appear as if Michelle Wie is once again being given a free handout by being named to the team. But based on her season-long results and prodigious length off the tee, it might very well be Daniel's squad that reaps the benefits three weeks from now.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Senior Golf Writer




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