Michelle Wie among LPGA stars making 2019 debut in Thailand

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 11: Michelle Wie of United States on the 2nd hole during the first round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club on October 11, 2018 in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Michelle Wie among LPGA stars making 2019 debut in Thailand

Digital Edition

Michelle Wie among LPGA stars making 2019 debut in Thailand

By

The LPGA season gets serious in Thailand. Not to say the first three events of the season were silly – quite the contrary – but the heavyweights are out for this one. Two recent No. 1s, Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu, make their 2019 debuts this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. They’re the most likely candidates to challenge Ariya Jutanugarn for her increasingly comfortable throne.

And then, of course, there’s Michelle Wie, the tour’s resident needle-mover. She’s coming in rather cold, not having competed since mid-October at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea. Wie had hoped cortisone shots and rest after the Women’s British Open would push her through the second half of 2018, but she ultimately opted for surgery on her right hand and a forced break.

“I’m actually feeling pretty confident,” Wie told Golfweek in an email interview, “and I think it’s because I am feeling healthy and happy. I also feel unbelievably fresh and eager to get back out competing again. I literally can’t wait to get to Thailand.”

Wie finished 11th last year in Thailand before going on to win in dramatic fashion at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore. While the golf world hoped it might kickstart a run of brilliance, she ultimately played half a season, withdrawing from the Women’s British in early August and competing only twice after that.

“It’s hard to compare with last year,” said Wie of her form, “as I’ve been focusing pretty hard on the rehab and the process of getting back to full fitness and ready to compete in the Asian swing. I’ve obviously not tested myself out under tournament conditions yet, which will be the real test.”

Wie kept fans informed of her progress via Instagram. She first started hitting putts longer than 4 feet on Jan. 4, followed by short chip shots on Jan. 6, holing out one on video. The next week she advanced to wedge shots and by late January unleashed driver for the world to see.

“My heart is beating so fast right now,” she wrote on Instagram.

Photo shoots, R&R in the Hamptons, a beach vacation, bridesmaid duties, ramen from scratch in a cooking class. Wie found ways to fill the time. After all, injury comebacks are kind of her thing.

And in a rare move, Wie also revealed a relationship with Jonnie West, director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors and son of NBA legend Jerry West. The pair played golf together at Turtle Creek Club in Tequesta, Fla., before Wie headed to Thailand.

Asked how many strokes she gives her beau, Wie said, “I am very generous!”

Park heads to Thailand fueled by time spent with Tiger Woods at a recent TaylorMade photoshoot. Known by many on tour as “Tiger,” Park wrote on Instagram that she’d dreamed of such a moment her whole life. The two-time major winner enjoys rock star status in her native South Korea.

One LPGA star who won’t return this week is 2018 Thailand champ Jessica Korda. After a gutsy comeback from double jaw surgery last February, she’s been plagued by a forearm injury that kept her out of the 2017 Solheim Cup and isn’t healing as quickly as she’d hoped. Korda expects to start her 2019 season in March at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix.

While she wasn’t in Adelaide, Jessica was fully engaged in the ISPS Handa Australia Women’s Open from her couch, as little sister, Nelly, became the fourth member of the Korda family to win a significant title on Australian soil. Nelly and Jessica’s father, Petr, won the Australian Open tennis tournament in 1998, and their brother, Sebastian, won the Australian Open boys’ single title in tennis in 2018.

Jessica sobbed through the finish, writing “Took you long enough” on her Instagram story. Jessica won the Aussie Open in her first attempt in 2012. Nelly, 20, won the title in her third appearance. Fans now must wait until spring to see the sisters in the same field. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home