Could Michelle Wie finally be figuring it out? Just two weeks after finishing second in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wie shot a 5-under 67 in the final round to win the LPGA LOTTE Championship in her native Hawaii.
”I’m just having fun out there,” said Wie, according to cbssports.com. ”I was out there and nervous. Every time I felt nervous out there, I was looking around, I felt there was no place I’d rather be.”
This was the first LPGA Tour victory for the 24-year-old American since she won the CN Canadian Women’s Open in 2010. It snapped a 79-event winless streak and marked her first LPGA Tour win on American soil.
”The highlight of this week was to come back home,” Wie said. ”There wasn’t just one moment. From the first tee shot that I made to the last putt, the aloha that I felt from everyone was unbelievable. I really think a lot of times they willed the ball in. I give a lot of credit to them this week.”
Started With Such Great Promise
Wie was as close to being a golf prodigy as possible. She qualified at age 10 for the USGA amateur championship, the youngest to achieve this. She was also the youngest to qualify for an LPGA Tour event and she was the youngest winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. She became the youngest girl to make the cut at an LPGA event when she survived the winnowing process at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, a major tournament. She made the cut at the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open at 13, the youngest ever. She was not yet 16 years old when she turned professional in 2005. She stood six foot one, could hit the ball farther than any woman on the planet, and even had outstanding golf genes because her mother had been a very successful player in South Korea.
Too many expectations and too much pressure
Everyone assumed Wie would dominate the LPGA Tour because she had so much going for her. But things didn’t proceed in a straight line. All the publicity and endorsements that surrounded her were not accompanied by victories. Before she even got her feet wet she was hurled into men’s events to see how she would fare. This was about as bad as when the great Olympic sprint champion Jesse Owens was forced to run against racehorses. The experience of playing against the men was unfair to Michelle and probably set her back in terms of confidence. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have her try to win a couple minor women’s events instead of throwing her to the wolves in this way?
True grit to complete her college education while playing professionally
She should be given great credit for taking time to complete a college education from 2007-2012, attending Stanford in the fall and winter and playing golf in the spring and summer. But being in college probably also slowed her development as a golfer. She was of course ineligible to play on the Stanford golf team because she was already a professional.
Steady progress and gaining in popularity
The past two years Michelle has been making steady progress and she now seems poised to take off and fulfill the promise she showed over a decade ago. She seems more mature and eager to perform. She appears to be a much more likeable person and also the players don’t seem jealous and resentful of her the way they sometimes did when she first came out on tour.
At the 2013 Solheim Cup between American and European players that the U.S. lost handily, Wie was probably the best American player. There was controversy over her being a captain’s pick, but she acquitted herself well and justified her selection. She seemed to feed off the energy of the Colorado crowd and was completely embraced by an American gallery maybe for the first time.
Moving up the rankings
With her victory in Hawaii in April, Wie earned 500 points in the new Race to the CME Globe standings, a season-long points competition, and moved into second place with 1,270 points. She is also projected to move up to 13th in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Major victories on the horizon?
Michelle still has a couple things in her game that are problematic. For example, she putts by hovering over the ball with her body almost parallel to the ground. It’s hard to imagine you can consistently putt well from such a peculiar stance. But she seems relaxed and confident now, and if she can start to approach her prodigious talent level, she could dominate the LPGA Tour in a way we haven’t seen since Annika Sorenstam. And that would be good news for the U.S. and for the LPGA.