Michelle Wie is at once a physical marvel and disaster. She’s been criticized for being too technical, while at the same time lauded for her creativity. She’s a painter and a foodie, a DIY-ing fashionista whose most common accessory is Kineseo tape. For nearly two decades she has given the golf world just enough hope and intrigue to keep even her harshest critics tuned in. She’s a can’t-miss show, no matter what’s playing.
On Sunday in steamy Singapore, Wie became a winner once more. But she didn’t just win … Wie hit from deep at the buzzer, bringing fans to their feet half a world away. She burst into tears when it was over and hugged her mother, Bo. Wie hadn’t hoisted a trophy since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
There she held on. In Singapore, Wie sizzled.
“Winning is everything,” she said.
Wie, 28, and now a five-time winner on the LPGA, called the 35-foot putt she drained for birdie from off the green on the 72nd hole the best putt of her career. She waved in caddie Matthew Galloway for the read.
“He’ll probably get really mad at me for saying this,” said Wie. “But there was a little old hole right in front in line with it, and we’re either going to go above it or below it, and he’s like reading it, and he’s like ‘Oh, is it above it or below it? Do you think it’s above?’ ”
Wie assured him it was above, and then jarred it, breaking herself out of a four-way tie for the lead at the renamed HSBC Women’s World Championship, a tournament players often refer to as “Asia’s Major.”
The final round at Sentosa Golf Club was dizzyingly red. Two players were on a 59 watch early, with both Angela Stanford and Sei Young Kim posting a 29 on their opening nine. Kim matched a career-best 62 for the day’s low round while both Stanford and Caroline Masson shot 63.
Wie’s bogey-free 65 put her at 17-under 271, one shot ahead of Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Jenny Shin and Brooke Henderson. Korda, whose older sister, Jessica, won last week in Thailand, had a good look at birdie on the 18th but couldn’t force the playoff. Jessica, who tied for 10th, came quickly to her sister’s side. They were poised to become only the second set of siblings to win on the LPGA, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam.
“There’s going to be another tournament,” said the level-headed Nelly. “There’s going to be another feeling like this.”
Wie, the third American to win this season for a stars-and-stripes run that hasn’t been seen since 2007, came into Sunday’s round with a chip on her shoulder after faltering from a similar position last year in Singapore. It can’t be overstated how often Wie has pulled herself out of an injury or slump, reinvented her game, rejuvenated her mind and continued the fight.
She seems to have an unlimited number of lives.
Soon after Wie made that bomb for birdie on 18, an image of her parents celebrating popped into her mind. Both were by her side in Singapore, as is usually the case.
“There have been moments where it was hard,” said Wie. “It was hard to keep going and to keep playing. My family believed in me relentlessly, and with that, I started to believe in myself.”
In 2016, Wie finished 105th on the money list. She ranked 76th in putting and 124th in greens in regulation. At this time last year, she was 179th in the Rolex Rankings.
Look at her now.
Wie, the former table-topper, ranks No. 1 in putting on the LPGA. She came into Singapore No. 26 in the world and will rush the top 10 after her stunning performance.
It’s difficult to say what this high will do for the LPGA’s biggest needle-mover. Wie’s career thus far has been impossible to predict. When the proverbial floodgates have seemed primed to open, she wound up with her foot in a protective boot and spasms in her neck and, most recently, an emergency appendectomy. She now receives collagen-based injections to treat the arthritis that’s in both her wrists.
That’s just her body.
Wie keeps swing coach David Leadbetter’s head spinning with her endless tinkering. At the start of the 2018 season, the teacher asked his student to at least keep what they had worked on going for nine holes.
If only she could bottle up Singapore and pour it out at will. If only this were the beginning of a magical run.
“I just want to keep rising,” said Wie.
Taking all of women’s golf with her.