Michelle Wie and the Case of the Disappearing Game

One stroke. She missed the cut by only one stroke. After recording rounds of 72-68, the expectations and pressures quickly mounted for Michelle Wie. After all, this was the 2004 Sony Open on the PGA TOUR in which Wie barely missed the cut. Certainly, this would transfer over to the LPGA.

Ernie Els took notice of Wie in her younger days (via Honolulu Star-Bulletin).

“As I said earlier, Michelle is 14,” he says. “Give her another couple of years to get stronger. I mean, she can play on this tour (PGA TOUR).

“If she keeps working, keeps doing the right things, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be out here.”

This has evolved into an all too familiar pose for Wie. (Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE)

Again, those expectations at such a young age. We all waited.

And we are still waiting.

This past weekend as Wie finished her final round of the CME Titleholders, the tournament itself served as a microcosm as what has been one frustrating season. With opening rounds of 81-77, she was far from contention as Na Yeon Choi took home the big check and trophy. With no pressure, she carded 71-69 for her two last rounds. Good rounds and poor rounds.

That has been Wie’s 2012. If there was even an opportunity to play four rounds. You see, Wie missed 10 cuts this year.

You can look at stats over the past four seasons and quickly determine what has deteriorated the most in her game: putting. She is still one of the LPGA’s longer hitters as she is routinely in the top 10. Since 2009, the year where she notched her first LPGA victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, her lowest average driving distance is 266 yards. That was in 2011.

Wie is not the most accurate driver of the golf ball, but she never has been labelled as such. With missing those fairways, you can overcome that with hitting greens, one area that has also taken a downturn. For 2012, Wie hit only 66% of greens in regulation. This just two years removed from being of the LPGA’s best when she hit 72.5% GIR in 2010.

Again, the putter appears to have abandoned her.

STAT 2012 2011 2010 2009
Putts/GIR 1.89 1.84 1.84 1.79
Putting Avg. 31.16 30.60 30.74 29.59
Scoring Avg. 73.48 71.94 71.34 70.57

Three years and almost three strokes added to her average round. It is of little surprise Wie has dropped from 17th, where she was ranked in the final 2011 Rolex Rankings, to her current spot of 52nd. And everyone continues looking for reasons and flaws. Yes, the putting is the obvious part of the game that has vanished, but she has lost a little accuracy off the tee (-5.2% from ’09 to ’12) and has not hit as many greens (-4.2% during same period, but -6.5% off her GIR of ’11).

Personally, I have been a Wie fan since she hit the scene. I, too, envisioned her as the next big thing in women’s golf, not only American women’s golf, but worldwide.

While some of the luster has obviously dissipated, Wie is still a draw at events. At this point, you have to wonder if those in the gallery are hopeful to witness a return of the Michelle Wie from 2009, or if they are merely waiting to see where the hiccups appear on her scorecard or merely to see her still hit the ball over 265 yards.

There will be those that point to her time at Stanford and declare that Wie lost her vigor for the game of golf. Lost that edge. Could be the case. It could still be the case of “too much, too soon” as far as accepting those sponsor exemptions at PGA events when Wie was a teenager. And the logical explanations might be (well, in my mind) that is it a combination of both.

I do consider having taken those exemptions as a huge gamble which did not pay off for Wie. Not hindsight, although it appears to be the case. I’ve never thought it was justified even though Wie was a bit of a local celebrity at the time.

I don’t think attending Stanford was. Wie wanted to attend college, graduated with a degree in communications and has said her time there was a good time. Maybe the “mental cleaning” was a necessity.

Before this season began, I stated that Wie would have a good year. I though having taken some time away from golf and not having to worry about those expectations and pressure would actually be a positive.

Um, yea, about that…

Dare I say the same for 2013? Wie will bounce back? At this point, I can’t.

But I still hold hope. How about you?

Will Michelle Wie "bounce back" in 2013?

  • Yes (45%, 19 Votes)
  • No (55%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 42

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Topics: LPGA, Michelle Wie

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