I’ve been reading a lot of snide comments by Tour players about Michelle Wie’s appearance at the Sony. (No Vijay is not among them). It seems mean, but I think there’s a lot of economic self interest in those comments.
One of the reasons that so many Tour players are upset with the tournament slot given to Michelle Wie is that—unless you are among the top players on Tour—it’s not always easy to actually get into an event. Each player on the Tour is ranked according to their accomplishments, and spots in a tournament are awarded on the basis of that ranking. You can find the current exemption system here.
It’s an interesting system, in that it appears specifically designed to protect the incumbents. The established players are given every opportunity to stay in, and never have to worry about being able to get into enough tournaments to stay on the money list. The flip side of this is that it is sometimes difficult for new faces to break in. The next great player may be out there, but just doesn’t get enough opportunities to settle in and get established.
I don’t think it’s a particularly great system for two reasons. The first is that Tiger won’t play forever, and they’re going to need new blood. New blood needs to be encouraged, but the system really doesn’t do that. Again, I’ll point you toward a book on the struggles of new players called Rookie on Tour. Your library may have it.
The other is a little more subtle: I think it reduces the competitive spirit. Davis Love doesn’t have to put forth his best effort each week (not picking on Davis. It’s just the first name that popped into my head), because he knows that he can always get a slot at whatever future tournament he wants. A player toward the bottom of the list, on the other hand, can’t afford to have an off week, because he doesn’t know how many opportunities he’ll really have.
Now given all of that, the slot Wie has is a “Sponsors Exemption”—one of the slots reserved for the tournament organizers, who can give it to anyone they want. The spots typically go to a local player, or someone else that the tournament thinks will be good for the event’s bottom line. And ultimately, if Wie is good for the Sony’s bottom line, that’s all good.
But I am sure that some of the players who didn’t get in are wondering if she didn’t take a spot that might—- possibly—have gone to them.