Michelle Wie’s fling with a belly putter appears to be over. The 22-year-old, full-time LPGA Tour golfer will play this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship with an old standby — a conventional Nike Method blade, a Nike spokesperson confirmed.
Golf’s first major of the 2012 season at Mission Hills Country Club marks a new phase in Wie’s chosen field. With schoolwork behind her and graduation from Stanford slated for June, the former teen prodigy made her debut on Golf Channel’s “Feherty” show Monday night and arrived at Dinah Shore’s tourney eager to take the next step in what some critics believe has been a disappointing career for the much-hyped former phenom.
Excited to “jump in full speed ahead with golf,” the two-time tour winner conceded that her professional resume was “pretty mediocre so far,” and told reporters on Tuesday that she “obviously wanted to win more.”
Perhaps a change in flat sticks will help elevate the game of the world’s 21st-ranked player. Wie said she preferred not to make so many alterations with her shortest club, but noted she was “feeling better” now that she was “back to my older putter” (“Old Shorty,” according to the Nike website).
Putting is certainly a skill set Wie will need to improve if she’s to make noise this week and going forward. She was tied for 37th in putting average in 2009 (an average of 29.59 putts per round), her first season as a pro. Since then, she’s slumped to T124th (30.7 putts) in 2010, 115th in 2011 (30.6 putts), and T112th (31putts) in 10 rounds so far in 2012.
Wie experimented with a 46-inch Nike Method One belly bat at the Evian Masters last July and missed the cut. Despite a share of second place at the Canadian Women’s Open a month later, Wie has not flourished with the elongated wand. In addition to her foreshortened Evian stint, she failed to make it to the weekend at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in September and shared 68th place at the Navistar LPGA Classic later that month.
Overall, Wie recorded a decent season in 2011, with seven top-10 finishes, but her putting, never her strong suit, was still suspect. For help on the putting surfaces, Wie has enlisted the services of short-stick guru Dave Stockton, Dave Pelz, and has reportedly tried the AimPoint approach for reading greens as well. For now, at least, the lanky Hawaiian has switched back to a 35-inch Anser-style, heel-toe weighted Method prototype blade.
Wie was set to tee it up in the first round at Mission Hills Country Club with 2011 Kia Classic winner Sandra Gal at 12:30 PT.