Michelle Wie: Feeling at home on the links

Michelle Wie is raring to go and ready to conquer the links at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open after overcoming niggling injury issues that have plagued her career since she won her first Major title back in 2014.

The 28-year-old, who has spent nearly half her life as a professional golfer, can’t wait to tee off as the event takes place at the famed Gullane Golf Club for the first time this week.

“I love coming over to play golf in Scotland,” she says, “and the fans are always amazing. It is, after all, the ‘Home of Golf’ so you always feel a sense of excitement just for being here.

“Last year’s event was played in very testing conditions and I managed to learn a lot about my game, having to hit a variety of different shots.”

Career Best

Wie finished in a share of 19th place on her debut at Dundonald Links last year and it propelled her to her career-best finish in the Ricoh Women’s British Open the following week, as she left Kingsbarns Golf Club, Fife, with a share of third place.

“Playing in the tournament and getting used to links conditions proved to be the perfect preparation for me before heading into the Ricoh Women’s British Open where I had my best ever finish in the Championship,” she said. “Hopefully, I can continue to learn even more this year.”

Since making her Major breakthrough at the US Women’s Open four years ago, Wie has struggled with various injuries, including finger, hip, ankle, neck and wrist issues. She withdrew from last year’s US Women’s Open midway through the second round with neck pain and after playing a few events over the summer – including her Scottish Open debut – she then took all of September off to give her body a rest.

This year she has eased her practise regime, spending less time hitting buckets of balls on the range and, instead, working more with a putter in her hand. “I’m trying not to hit golf balls as much,” Wie said. “I love to grind it out in practise, so now I focus all my energy on the putting green.

“Just being able to see the ball go in over and over again really helps my confidence. Having total trust in your putter also helps bring a lot of confidence to your game.”

That change has paid off as she returned to the winner’s circle in emphatic style in March, wrapping up her fifth LPGA Tour title at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore. She clinched victory with a bogey-free 65, capping the win with a 45-foot birdie putt from off the green on the final hole. It was her first win since her triumph at Pinehurst and it showed in her emotional celebrations.

“It’s been a tough journey since 2014,” said Wie after the win. “I think it’s been well documented – I’ve had some injuries, had a really bad year and lost a lot of confidence.

“But I’m really proud of myself for pulling out of my slump. I felt like aI had a good year in 2017, where I built confidence, and I just want to keep going and to keep rising up the ranking.”

No Missed Cuts

Wie hasn’t missed a cut on the LPGA Tour so far this season and she recently finished in a share of 10th place at the US Women’s Open in Alabama to climb up to eighth place in the Race to CME Globe.

“I had a great off-season,” said Wie. “I felt really healthy and rejuvenated and came out fully energised and ready for this season. It’s been a hard road, having to change my swing so many times, working around my injuries. I thought a couple of my injuries were going to be career-ending. But I had great people around me, a great support system, and we just took it slowly and now I’m feeling healthy.”

Early on in her career Wie set record after record, becoming the youngest player to make the cut in an LPGA Tour event and a Major at the age of 13 and shooting rounds of 68 at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in 2004 and 2006. She has played in five successive Solheim Cups and is keen to make the 2019 team at Gleneagles. If she continues to perform at her current level then qualification is almost a formality.

“I just want to keep playing the best I can, trying the hardest I can and trying to become the best player that I can be,” she said. With that determination, Wie is definitely a player to keep an eye on this week on the links of Gullane.