Michelle Wie’s Expensive Penalty
by Jeff Skinner
The people at the LPGA Kia’s Classic knew what they were doing when they extended a sponsor’s exemption to Hee Kyung Seo of South Korea. She played well enough to dust the field by six strokes and claim her first victory on US soil. The top American finishers in the tournament were Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie who tied for sixth. Pressel shot her lowest round of the tournament with a 68 to finish and Michelle Wie carded a 72, a disputed 72 at that.
Wie thought she was entitled to a 70, not the 72 that included a two stroke penalty which the rules officials had accessed. It happened on the eleventh hole with Wie’s ball sitting in a water hazard and she attempted to hit it with her right foot ankle deep in the water and her left foot on the bank. She struck at the ball and it popped out with a huge splash, it hit the bank and rolled back within the boundary of the hazard. At that point she looked to be trying to keep her balance and she struck the ground inside the hazard with her club. She played out the hole with a par.
On the face of it, that’s a two stroke penalty, it’s in the rules, rule 13-4. Wie was convinced that she was trying to maintain her balance and stop from falling back into the pond. Later on during the round she had a discussion with a rules official and was informed that she had indeed violated the rule and she was assessed a two stroke penalty.
After her round was complete she went to the television compound and watched the footage of her shot with the rules officials. There she offered her best Stanford Law School defense when she claimed she was losing her balance and trying to stop from falling in the water. After repeated attempts to convince the officials she grew frustrated. She certainly acknowledged she did ground her club but she said she felt off balance and thought that should have been enough to convince them that she didn’t deserve the penalty. There was a lot of “it doesn’t seem right” and “I know that I felt it (off balance)” and “it really seems unfair to me right now.” I thought her best line was that “It leads to a belief that I’m wearing a white skirt and I might fall in the water.”
I thought she had a fair argument and it appeared like she may have felt off balance but the rules officials said they needed more than just being off balance. As anyone would be when they get hit with a penalty, she was upset and declared her belief that the penalty was unfair. Without the two strokes she would have finished in a tie for second place, instead she was tied for sixth. It cost her about $100,000. She can chalk it up to another learning experience on tour and get ready for the first major of the season next week.