Michelle Wie’s 2014 was defined by success at the women’s US Open but there is a score to settle over the disappointment that came before.
Wie was tied for the lead at the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which has now been renamed the ANA Inspiration, before ultimately losing by three shots to Lexi Thompson. The event returns to Mission Hills this weekend, with Wie one of the main contenders once again.
“I was heartbroken afterwards,” concedes Wie of 12 months ago. “But at the same time, I played as hard as I could. Lexi played so great last year. You know, it was both things for sure; I definitely was very happy with how I played, but at the end of the day it was a little bit heartbreaking for me. I think that’s what motivated me and got me fired up for the following week.”
That week staged the Lotte Championship, in which Wie recorded a first LPGA triumph in four years.
“I’m a strong believer and have always been a strong believer of everything happens for a reason,” she adds. “I learned a lot. I think I learned a lot from last year just how I approached it. Just from winning and losing, I think you learn both equally as much. Definitely I was fired up after this event last year.
“For me I think the most important thing is I want to give myself the best chance every week, whether it’s a major or not. There is that added extra pressure that you want to win the majors, especially in tournaments like these which have so much history. I think for me the most important is saying whether or not I’m peaking or not this week, I just want to give myself the best chance. I feel like everyone has a fair opportunity this week, and I want to give myself the best chance that I can give and just have fun out there.”
Wie has been troubled by knee and hand injuries recently, a matter which might well undermine her California hopes. In two US starts this year, Wie has finished tied 29th and tied 64th. “I feel like I have played a lot better than my scores have showed,” she says.
Similarities exist to Pinehurst, where Wie triumphed. Whereas then the playing of the men’s championship immediately before arguably overshadowed the event, this major comes with the unavoidable backdrop of whether or not Tiger Woods will compete in next week’s Masters.
In the context of Wie’s challenge, there comes the hardly insignificant matter of Lydia Ko, the 17-year-old who has recorded a staggering 28 rounds in a row under par. The record for such scoring on the PGA Tour, for comparison, is 26.
“That’s pretty damn good,” acknowledges Wie, a 25-year-old veteran compared to Ko. “It’s pretty impressive. Like I have said before, she’s just so consistent. A lot of people ask me what the strong point is about her game. I think the strong point is that she really doesn’t have a weakness, a standing weakness in her game.
“She kind of goes out there and she hits it pretty far, hits it pretty close to the hole, usually makes a putt. It’s very consistent. So I wouldn’t be surprised if she keeps that streak going. It’s definitely something I’ve been working on. Consistency is something I really want to achieve, and I definitely look up to her in that sense.”
Wie’s sentiment was backed up this week by Ko’s coach, David Leadbetter. He explained how the young star goes into “autopilot” in the heat of golfing battle. “Things don’t bother her,” Leadbetter added.
What Ko doesn’t have, and Wie does, is that maiden major success. Should the teenager claim it on Sunday she would become the youngest female major winner in history. Form suggests she won’t be far away; Ko has recorded 10 top-10 finishes in succession.
The New Zealander, unsurprisingly, is the bookmakers’ clear favourite.
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