Michelle Wie enters KPMG Women's PGA bolstered by confidence

Getty Images

Michelle Wie enters KPMG Women's PGA bolstered by confidence

LPGA Tour

Michelle Wie enters KPMG Women's PGA bolstered by confidence

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Hope never dies with Michelle Wie. She’s the great curiosity of the LPGA, mostly because no one in the women’s game has experienced more extremes. Wie comes into the year’s second major riding a subtle hot streak, with four top-4 finishes in her last five events.

David Leadbetter, Wie’s longtime swing instructor who is like a second dad, made a daring statement in the shadows of Olympia Field’s palatial clubhouse: “There’s no doubt in my mind she’s going to win soon.”

There would be no better place for her to do it than the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where the top 100 players on the money list have gathered at a storied venue. There’s a new No. 1 in So Yeon Ryu, who in the eyes of many was the spoiler of the year’s first major. Since that four-stroke penalty fiasco at the ANA Inspiration, Lexi Thompson boasts a victory at the Kingsmill Championship and a pair of runner-up showings in her last four starts.

This truly is the LPGA’s time to shine, with more than 25 hours of dedicated coverage on both Golf Channel and NBC. There will be six hours of weekend coverage on NBC, and there won’t be another men’s major for three weeks. (Both the ANA and the U.S. Women’s Open are staged the week before a men’s major and are quickly overshadowed.)

One of the main goals of revitalizing the LPGA Championship was to bring the women to courses where men’s majors have so much history.

“Oh, it’s sick,” said Wie after playing all 18 holes at Olympia Fields. That’s slang for she loves it here.

After a pro-am round with former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, the 27-year-old Wie snapped a photo with two-time Olympic gold medalist Michelle Kwan, who was on hand as a featured guest of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.

Michelle Wie takes a selfie with former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan during the pro-am prior to the start of the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club. (Getty Images)

Wie hasn’t won on the LPGA since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, but her play of late harkens back to that memorable two-win stretch. Retired player Karen Stupples, a major winner, now works as an analyst for Golf Channel. She likes the fact that Wie comes into each week now with a solid plan that revolves around the fade. Late last year, Leadbetter helped Wie take the left side of the golf course out of the equation, which has buoyed her confidence.

“She needs something to occupy her mind,” said Stupples, “when she wants to analyze and overcorrect and do other things.”

The one-way miss was the first part of the equation. Finding something that works on the putting surface was the second.

It’s been hard not to grimace when watching Wie go to work on the greens in recent years. Nothing about her hunched-over style looked natural.

Then she discovered the claw. Don’t bother asking Wie about the evolution of her putting style – it literally changes from putt to putt.

“We call it ‘the whatever method,’ ” said Leadbetter.

In other words, she goes with whatever grip feels good to her in that moment – claw, cross-handed or neutral. It changes with her mood, which by and large these days is happy.

“I definitely play my best golf when I’m having fun out there,” said Wie, who is desperate to make Juli Inkster’s Solheim Cup team on points rather than relying on a captain’s pick. (She’s currently seventh on the list. The top eight automatically make the team.)

Regardless of the grip, Leadbetter said, Wie’s posture looks good and there’s little movement with the hands. The putting stats prove it’s working. She’s currently 14th in putts per green in regulation at 1.75, only 0.01 off from where she stood in 2014. Last year, Wie finished the season ranked 120th in that category at 1.85.

“She’s in a good place right now,” said Leadbetter.

Quite possibly on the cusp of something great.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home