CLIFTON, N.J. – Six years since gaining national attention as a 13-year-old golfing phenomenon, Michelle Wie still seeks that first win on the LPGA and dreams of beating the boys on that other pro golf circuit.
A trip to Augusta also would be nice.
Wie raised a couple of eyebrows at a pre-tournament news conference for the Sybase Classic on Wednesday, when the 19-year-old matter-of-factly said that she hopes to win a PGA Tour tournament and play in the Masters.
Granted the questions were posed to the player who was anointed the next great female golfer while still in middle school, but she didn’t back off or even couch her answers by saying that would be something she would think about when she wins a couple of times against the best women.
Wie has not won a tournament since the 2003 USGA Women’s Public Links.
“You know, like I always say, dream high and stuff, set your goals up high, and I think it’s definitely – I’m not saying it’s an easy goal to achieve,” Wie said when asked about winning a men’s tournament. “I’m not going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go out and win a men’s event.’ It’s not like that, but it’s one of those long-term goals where I see myself getting to. I see myself getting there, and it’s one of those goals that really motivates me and pushes me to be a stronger player, a better player.”
Wie captured plenty of attention in 2006 when she made it to the final round of qualifying for the U.S. Open. Her threesome at Canoe Brook in nearby Summit was mobbed and she excited the throng in the morning 18 with a chip-in for birdie on her final hole. She struggled in the afternoon and failed to make the field.
“It was a lot of fun,” Wie said. “The U.S. Open means a lot to me, so just being able to do that, I gained a lot of experience, and it was a really nice golf course. I just remember it being a really long day, but it was definitely a fun experience.”
Unlike years past when Wie seemingly was a free agent contracting to any golf event, she is happy to be a member of the LPGA. She earned her playing privileges at the qualifying school last year and has earned $171,829 in five events this year. Her best finish was second at the SBS Open in her native Hawaii in her first start.
After taking the next three events off, Wie has tied for 57th, tied for 67th, tied for 10th and tied for 15th last week at the Michelob Ultra Open in Virginia.
Officially an LPGA rookie even though she has played in 54 events in her career, Wie said her game is improving.
Winning is another topic.
“I’m going to try to keep playing the best I can,” Wie said. “Hopefully I am very close to a win. I feel like it’s going to come. I have faith.”
Wie, ranked No. 22 on the money earnings list, this week faces a field at Upper Montclair Country Club that includes three-time defending champion Lorena Ochoa and 27 of the top 30 players on tour.
Ochoa, who has won twice in seven events this year, said it is hard to have an opinion about Wie, having never played with her.
“Her life is just very different than all of us,” Ochoa said. “She was the best when she was 12, 13, 14, and she was a phenomenon, and all the decisions they made, some of them good, maybe some of them not as good, but I think today she’s a better player. I think she knows that she feels more comfortable out here. It’s good that she’s full-time. I think she likes that, and we like that, too, to have that consistency every week.”
There is one major difference between the two. Ochoa, who has won 26 career titles, has no desire to play against the men.
“You never know if I’m going to change my mind in a couple years,” the 27-year-old Ochoa said. “But so far I’m good here. I think I first need to prove and achieve my goals here on the LPGA. This is where I belong.”
Wie thinks her life has stabilized after years of getting sponsors exemptions to LPGA and men’s events in the United States and overseas, a career that has yet to bring a victory but has earned her millions of dollars in sponsorship deals and appearance fees.
“I really don’t regret anything that I have done,” she said. “But like I said, I don’t want to go back into the past. There’s nothing I can do to change the past if I wanted to. So all I can do is focus on the future, focus on now. It’s a new start. It’s a fresh new start for me. That’s what it feels like. I’m moving forward now, and I feel pretty good about it, and I’m just having fun.”