Since a teenager, Michelle Wie has made an impact on the golfing world in more ways than one, and based on recent form, the popular player looks set to continue to attract attention.
When, earlier this year, the 27-year-old Michelle Wie finished in a share of 30th place in the Australian Open, she had a week to spare before teeing up in the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. Many another might have chosen to divide the intervening days between languishing on a beach and spending time on the practice ground. Michelle, though, took it upon herself to fly home to Florida, a trip which would involve three stop-offs.
She had a few things she wanted to do. The first, to see her dog; the second to pick up some of her old and familiar clothes after a favourite selection of miscellaneous items had been stolen from her suitcase in Australia. And the third?
To take a lesson from David Leadbetter, her loyal coach of 15 years. That little lot accomplished, she flew out East again (there were another three stops en route) and had a first practice round at Singapore’s Sentosa Island venue on the Sunday afternoon. Her parents BJ and Bo, were already in situ and the three of them had a quiet afternoon on the new championship layout while the rest of the players were still finishing off at the Honda Classic in Thailand.
No-one was expecting too much of Wie in Singapore, though she had been 40th in the Rolex World Rankings 12 months earlier, she had fallen out of the world’s top 150 following a 2016 season in which she posted a solitary top-ten finish.
Because of it, she had needed a wild card for the Champions. Some grudging souls wondered why she should be the recipient of such an invitation. Surely, in this era of all-round equality, women should not be getting wild cards on account of their looks and past performances?
In fact, Wie was an easy choice for Giles Morgan. To no small extent, HSBC’s Head of Sponsorship was giving the public what they wanted. Just as in the UK almost every amateur who tees up in a LET pro-am is hoping against hope that he or she will find themself in the same group as Laura Davies, so people yearn for the chance to play alongside Wie.
To touch on a few of her most significant achievements, she was only one shot away from making the cut in a PGA Tour event (the men’s Sony Open) at the age of 14; she has a degree from Stanford in Communications; and she is the proud owner of the 2014 US Open title.
Wie’s first round was a 66, her second a 69 and her third a 67 which left her thrillingly placed at the top of the leaderboard, a shot ahead of Lydia Ko, Sung Hyun Park and Ariya Jutanugarn.
She was wearing red for the last round, the colour which, in the eyes of Tiger Woods’s mother, Tida, connotes strength. She exuded class and confidence for the first four holes that Sunday afternoon and, after starting with two birdies in the first four holes, she was as many as 16-under-par as she mounted the tee of the par-5 fifth. Eighty yards short of the green in two, she left her approach ten feet short of the hole before following up with a putting performance to put people in mind of what happened to Ernie Els in the 2016 Masters.
To recap, Els was two feet away from a par and wound up with a nine. Wie’s mishaps were hardly on so dire a scale but, after missing that ten-footer for a birdie, she failed from four and a half feet for a par; and from three feet for a bogey.
Her many fans gave an encouraging clap once the ball was safely in the hole for a double but the player’s confidence had taken a severe knock. Yet still there was so much to admire.
She could have caved in.
Instead, she gritted her teeth and ended up in a tie for fourth as Inbee Park made off with the title. “I can’t pretend it doesn’t sting a bit,” she said afterwards.
“Stuff happens; you make four putts but you carry on with life.”
Earlier in the week, Women & Golf had asked Wie to name the moment in her golfing career which had made her father the most proud. She picked on her US Open victory, only then she had thought again. She suspected that he was equally admiring of those days when she had played less than well but kept grinding.
As was mentioned at the close of that Singapore week, Wie is blessed with the gift that arguably matters more than any other; she has an insatiable love for golf.
For years, people suspected that her parents were doing as many other Korean-born family in asking the earth of an often resentful golfing offspring. Yet in Michelle’s case, there was never a jot of evidence to suggest that her all-round ambitions did not coincide with theirs.
Away from taking aim on golf as a career, the then 13-year-old Wie had her heart set on going to Stanford and here, no less than in golf, she had her parents’ full support.
Whatever people might say, she has never had any regrets about doing things her way. In golf, she is proud of how she continued to play the tour during her university years and how she thought ‘outside the box’ when it came to playing among the men. (To this day, she remains convinced that her run of men’s tournaments helped stretch her game.)
On the same tack, she loves the fact that the table-top-style putting stroke which she adopted for a while was entirely her own invention.
Long gone are the days when the other LPGA players would look at her with mingled envy and alarm. Today, they are as one in marvelling at how this hugely talented all-rounder has handled 15 years of life under the spotlight.
Credit- Getty Images
The above is an extract from the May/June issue of Women & Golf magazine, on sale Friday. Never miss an issue click here to subscribe and enjoy W&G delivered to your door.