Wie's struggles should act as cautionary tale for Ko
Friday, April 5, 2013
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Michelle Wie’s latest DIY project was her own hair, a peacock combo of pink, purple and turquoise. She got bored during the off-week.
“I’m planning on chopping it off next week,” she explained, “so it’s my last hoorah.” We’re not talking Anne Hathaway short, just 4 or 5 inches.
Wie’s creative side is well-documented on her blog and Twitter account. The baking, the crafts, the nail designs. It’s a combination of imagination and desperation that led to the 90-degree putting posture she now employs, something an onlooker at the Kraft Nabisco described today as the table-top technique. Wie made it up, though instructor David Leadbetter naturally worries what the posture might do to her lower back. It’s likely not a lifelong approach.
Wie opened the year’s first major championship with an even-par 72. For a short time it looked as though she might charge to the top of the board, but all in all it’s a very respectable start for the player who once rocked the Coachella Valley.
PHOTOS: Kraft Nabisco Championship (RD. 1)
View images of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in picturesque Rancho Mirage, CA.
Amateur Lydia Ko, 15, played alongside Wie on Thursday and matched her score. It was the worst score Ko probably could’ve put up today, considering how many solid birdie putts skirted by the hole.
Ko considers Wie her idol, which is “really strange” to the Stanford grad. The pairing should serve as a sort of cautionary tale to Ko, a not-so-subtle reminder that this game offers no guarantees. And, that by the age of 23, it’s possible to start putting like a geriatric patient.
The professional victory count between the two is mind-boggling: Ko (the amateur) 3; Wie 2. Interestingly enough, both have won the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
Wie’s first appearance at the Kraft came in 2003 at age 13. That week she had her first Oreo and tied for ninth. Fast forward to 2006, when Wie, now a pro, was asked about her long-range goals. She wanted to get into a “really good college” and play on the PGA Tour. She wanted to compete in the Masters and “win a couple of tournaments on the LPGA.”
Well, she can check a couple of things off that list.
Mercifully, Ko has no desire to play against the men. She won’t reach the magnitude of fame that Wie commanded as a teenager, but she’s more likely to keep her confidence high by staying on the LPGA.
On Wednesday, Golf.com posted a Q&A with Annika Sorenstam that included some harsh words against Wie. It wasn’t really anything different from what Sorenstam has said in previous interviews, criticizing Wie for going to Stanford during the peak of her career.
“There was a time when the LPGA really needed her,” Sorenstam said. “I thought she had a lot to bring to the table. Now she’s one out of many.”
Wie said after Thursday’s round that Sorenstam had texted the night before and said a couple of things “got misquoted.”
“She apologized for what she said, and I accept it and that’s that,” Wie said.
It’s really quite remarkable that Wie is as adjusted as she appears to be, considering all the negative press she has received over the years. She seems to let it all simply roll off her back.
Even Paul Azinger, speaking on a conference call Wednesday about the Masters, brought up Wie in a conversation about top amateurs not living up to their potential as professionals, particularly when paid well early on.
“You know, the best example of that is probably Michelle Wie,” Azinger said. “The greatest raw talent of all time, and it just hasn't materialized.”
That’s certainly a lesson for Ko, who no doubt will receive her own share of criticism as the stakes get higher.
Ko didn’t watch Wie nearly win this tournament as a teenager because New Zealand didn’t carry live coverage when she was growing up.
“It was the first time when I came here that I saw the course,” Ko said.
This year, SKY Sport NZ carried the first round of the Kraft live, allowing her coach, Guy Wilson, to watch his “robot” from across the globe. At 15, she’s already changing the game in her home country.
As for Wie, her picture graces the daily tickets this week, even though she never has taken a winner's traditional dip in Poppie’s Pond. She had 31 putts and hit only seven fairways, despite keeping driver in the bag for most of the day.
It’s a marked improvement over her missed-cut effort in 2012. With her Saturday suddenly open last year, Wie had two putting lessons in two different states on the same day. The first was with Vision54 gurus Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott in Palm Desert, and the second with Stan Utley in Phoenix. She never worked with either of them again.
Wie first started the hunched-over approach in Dubai late last year. Her putting has improved slightly: Putting average in 2012 was 30.6; so far this season, it's 29.64.
Wie’s manager said she has been turning down many requests of late so that Wie can concentrate solely on her golf game. When she’s not practicing or working out, she’s usually in the midst of an edgy cut-and-paste project of some sort. Or perhaps a little sewing.
One can only imagine what Wie would do with the Kraft robe should she ever win this tournament. Not to mention how creative she’d get on the jump.
Next to Ko, Wie looks ancient. But rest assured, there’s still time.