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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wie needs to bag one that works

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

If Greg Johnston was truly "shocked and surprised" about his firing as Michelle Wie's caddie, as he has maintained to golfdigest.com, he is definitely in the minority.

If he indeed missed the signs, no wonder she had been reading putts on her own for a while.

Anybody who has followed Wie's first year as a pro and the interplay between Team Wie and its caddies should have seen it coming. Maybe not the day after the apparently fateful British Open, but surely somewhere on the horizon.

It has been a rookie year that opened with the infamous disqualification at the Samsung in October and has been bookended by the disappointment of a two-stroke penalty last week at the British Open. Not exactly recommendations for job security when the golfer you are supposed to be shepherding is the most visible female in the sport.

But to lay it all on Johnston alone would be wrong, too. And that, unfortunately, is what the timing of Tuesday's firing would seem to suggest in making him the immediate public scapegoat this way.

At some point Team Wie has to take ultimate responsibility for being up to par. And we're reaching that point with more than 30 professional tournaments of experience across the PGA, LPGA and other tours. The buck stops at the address where the big checks come.

The she's-only-16-years-old explanation worked at Samsung where the confluence of Wie's debut, a reporter's misplaced zeal and a caddie's mistake added up to an embarrassment for all concerned. And, to her credit, Wie has not dodged it.

With the millions in endorsements Wie is getting comes more than just expectations of winning. There is also a responsibility to know the Rules of Golf and interpret them. Wie's quote at Royal Lytham about the rule book being, "not actually great reading material" was cute but revealing.

It suggests that whoever is calling the shots on Team Wie needs to invest in a thorough tutorial as well as better help on the bag. If LPGA headquarters and the BBC were "inundated by phone calls" about Wie's violation, then the Rule 13-4 isn't that obscure.

By one count Wie has had 10 caddies in her short pro and amateur career, including those who have worked with Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Juli Inkster. Part of it is attributable to the fact that since she is not a member of a pro tour and until last year the money to hire them was coming out of family funds.

But there is also the question of hard-to-find "chemistry" between Team Wie and the caddie. Something No. 9, Brian Smallwood, was supposedly short of last year and Johnston was apparently lacking in this year. Interestingly, Annika Sorenstam has managed well on two caddies in 12 years.

For everything invested in Wie's performance, you hope good help won't be hard to find.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.