RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — As a carefree 13-year-old, Michelle Wie used the grand stage right here in Rancho Mirage to declare her intentions to “go play LPGA full time after which attempt to go to the PGA.” It was 2003, and Wie performed grown-up golf between laughing discourses on Oreo cookies and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Wie, 28, will make her 14th begin at Mission Hills Nation Membership this week within the ANA Inspiration, the ladies’s first main of the yr. Her efficiency now, she stated, is fueled by avocado toast. Her look within the event has all the time been marked by boundless public curiosity and burdensome expectations. However by no means earlier than has Wie arrived at this level of the season with an LPGA victory already in her pocket.
Wie stated her win this month on the Ladies’s World Championship in Singapore — her fifth total and her first because the 2014 U.S. Ladies’s Open — had not elevated her anticipation of the ANA.
“I look ahead to this occasion yearly,” she stated Tuesday, as she ready to hunt her second main championship.
In distinction along with her demeanor lately, Wie exuded a peaceable, straightforward feeling throughout her media availability, punctuating lots of her solutions with a laughter that known as to thoughts the buoyant teen she was earlier than the sport crippled her physique and crushed her confidence.
She in the end performed in eight occasions on the PGA Tour, and made the minimize in a males’s event on the Asian Tour. Wie has not crossed over since 2008, the yr earlier than she grew to become a full-fledged member of the LPGA Tour and received her first event. By most estimations, that victory was lengthy overdue, and Wie’s profession had been undermined by overreach.
After her current win in Singapore, Wie conveyed a message to her administration group: “The very first thing I stated to my brokers and everybody was simply, ‘Let’s simply simmer down on the expectations and the hype and every thing.’”
Wie nonetheless competes sometimes with males, however solely informally and when she is residence in Jupiter, Florida. She practices alongside the likes of Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, whose fearlessness in attacking the course has helped her reconnect along with her youthful, undaunted self.
“I feel lots on the golf course, I fear concerning the final result,” Wie stated. “The blokes, they care, clearly, however they’re much more aggressive. I’ve talked to a few them, and so they stated, ‘If it goes within the hazard, it goes within the hazard.’”
They strategy golf “extra like a sport,” she stated.
Along with her booming drives and towering objectives, the teenage Wie attracted an enormous following — and a large endorsement portfolio after she turned skilled, simply days earlier than her 16th birthday. She was projected because the Tiger Woods of ladies’s golf, the transcendent expertise who would rework the sport, and she or he struggled underneath the burden of these expectations.
The enjoyment with which she approached the game dissipated over time, giving option to a world-weary drudgery. “I’ve all the time been an over-thinker,” Wie stated, including that as a teen she “simply masked it effectively.”
The highway to maturity could be tough for any adolescent, however particularly one negotiating the trail with the world watching, and critiquing each step.
“We accumulate worry, we accumulate overthinking,” Wie stated. “Generally you must knock it again down and simply sort of be free and have enjoyable.”
As a toddler, Wie idolized Woods, who’s now her neighbor in Jupiter. Like him, she has come to inhabit a physique troubled by overuse accidents, exacerbated by forceful golf swings. Since 2014, Wie has struggled with finger, hip, ankle, neck and wrist issues.
“Each time we see one another we listing off all of the issues: How’s your ankle, how’s your again, how’s every thing?” Wie stated, referring to Woods. “It’s a 20-minute dialog, after which we will transfer on from there.”
Wie withdrew from final yr’s U.S. Ladies’s Open early in her second spherical due to neck ache. She performed in three extra tournaments in July and August earlier than taking September off to permit her physique time to heal. When she returned, it was with a brand new outlook, and a brand new look. Pushed by boredom, Wie stated with fun, she minimize her lengthy black hair and have become a platinum blonde.
One among Wie’s cohorts, Brittany Lincicome, barely acknowledged her at a event this yr — as a result of her sport had modified fairly a bit, too.
“Up to now, you’ll wait till the explosion occurred or she would hit it out of play or do one thing actually dangerous and make a extremely huge quantity,” stated Lincicome, who performed in a gaggle with Wie. “However this final time I performed along with her, each shot was down the center. She was in play each time.”
Her accuracy off the tee wasn’t the one a part of Wie’s sport that impressed Lincicome, one of many tour’s longer drivers. “Her placing is improbable,” she stated.
“I informed her once we performed a pair weeks in the past I wished her as my Solheim associate, as a result of she actually from 20, 15 toes, was making each single factor,” Lincicome added, referring to the biennial group occasion between gamers from Europe and america. “I used to be like, ‘I’ll drive it, you putt it, and we’ll win.’”
Wie ranked outdoors the highest 40 in placing on the tour’s final yr, however is now tied for ninth. In Singapore she secured victory by sinking a birdie putt of at the very least 35 toes on the ultimate gap.
Wie stated her accidents, surprisingly, had helped make her a greater putter. To remain wholesome, she has scaled again her vary classes.
“I’m attempting to not hit golf balls,” Wie stated, including, “I like to grind, so I focus all of my power on the placing inexperienced.”
Wie is now not chasing historical past. She’s in no rush to solidify her legacy.
“My most important focus is staying wholesome,” she stated, “and we’ll simply take it on from there.”