Since Michelle Wie exploded onto the golf scene as a pre-teen destined for greatness, expectations for what she could (many would say, “should”) achieve have by far outpaced her actual accomplishments.
Yes, the 26-year-old Stanford grad captured what the punditry used to anticipate would be the first of a room full of major championship trophies with her win at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. And the Hawaiian native put up four top-eight finishes to complete her seemingly breakout season that included another victory at the LPGA Lotte Championship on home turf at Oahu.
But the 2014 campaign was also a harbinger of what was to come for Wie, who carded two missed cuts and two withdrawals among her 10 post-Open starts two years ago. What has followed in the season-plus has been nothing short of a horror show for Wie, who has battled illnesses, injuries, and something perhaps far more difficult to overcome than afflictions of the body.
“For me, it’s more a mental thing with Michelle now rather than physical,” Wie’s long-time coach David Leadbetter recently told GolfChannel.com. “She has to come to terms with what she wants to do, what she wants to achieve and how she wants to achieve it.
“She really hasn’t had any good tournaments to speak of this year,” Leadbetter said after Wie withdrew from last month’s Swinging Skirts Classic after 15 holes with neck spasms and before she missed yet another cut at last week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. “She played okay at the ANA [Inspiration — the season’s first major, where a final-round 77 derailed her week], but the last few months certainly haven’t been to anybody’s liking.”
Not unless anybody likes a WD sandwiched between two MCs. Compound that record with a missed cut in the season opener, another at the Founders Cup, a T65, T60, and T57 (among other scores), and there was nothing to like about the first few months, either.
So where does Wie — who is scheduled to tee it up come Thursday on Alabama’s RTJ Golf Trail at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic — go from here?
For starters, Leadbetter firmly believes that Wie’s physical infirmities — including a plethora of orthopedic problems that have plagued her wrists, index finger, hip, knee, ankle, and back over the past couple of years — are real.
“I have no doubt it was a genuine injury,” he said about the neck pain that forced her to quit the Swinging Skirts when she was 11-over and that required chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments and a neck brace.
What Wie needs, according to Leadbetter, is a healthy dose of self-assurance.
“She is very low on confidence right now,” said Leadbetter, who noted that while her current swing was “nice and full,” the powerful rotation of her motion could be causing some of her physical issues.
Leadbetter also wished his student would pick a look and stick with it.
“She’s still tinkering a little bit more than I would like,” he said. “In the end she has to make the decision.”
Leadbetter acknowledged that the flashes of brilliance amid the ineffectiveness must be frustrating for Wie, he rejected any notion that the four-time tour winner was giving up.