A couple of additional observations about the U.S. Women’s Open and the Michelle Wie Effect: There were legitimate concerns beforehand that no one would watch. With the U.S. Open being a runaway win for a player who is as compelling as German techno music; with television ratings for Week One coming in well below expectations; with a firm, fast and brown golf course that, while fantastic in person, didn’t translate well on television; and with the World Cup marching along at a healthy pace, a lot of learned experts thought the women might have trouble getting eyeballs and attention.
Boy, were they ever wrong. Ratings for Sunday’s final round, which turned into a shootout between Wie and world No. 1 Stacy Lewis, were up 89 percent ahead of last year and the highest they have been since 2007.
Wie’s victory also rekindled interest from the “casual” fan, that person who hasn’t paid attention since Wie was 16 and playing with the guys. She finished in the top five in three majors that year and reportedly earned $20 million in endorsement and appearance fees.
Now that she is older and wiser, if she continues to win, some marketing experts I spoke with predict that she could rival Danica Patrick and Maria Sharapova in popularity and endorsement potential.
Of course, all of that hinges on her game continuing to grow. Her golf swing isn’t as languid and natural as it was when she was 14 and being compared to Ernie Els. And her putting style is, well, interesting at best. Plus, there is always the potential for a second flameout, especially given Michelle’s ubiquitous entourage and the avalanche of advice she receives from all quarters.
But if she keeps it together, women’s golf could experience a perfect storm of popularity in the coming years with Hurricane Michelle at its center.
Michelle and Ernie in 2006:
Michelle in 2014: