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Sharp shooter: Michelle Wie focused on Asia swing – “I’m coming back strong”

2012-1-26_cropFired up for the LPGA’s Asian swing through October and early November, MICHELLE WIE talks about her Korean heritage, love for Kuala Lumpur, admiration for Guan Tianlang, strange-but-successful putting style – and her first time shooting a gun.

 

By SportAsia

 

October 2, 2013: One of the biggest names in women’s golf for the past decade, Michelle Wie is again proving a star attraction on the LPGA’s Asia swing, which features events in China, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan and Japan all through October and early November.

 

However, Wie has a special focus on the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, where the American will make her fourth straight appearance from October 10-13 – and celebrate her 24th birthday on the Friday.

 

Born in Hawaii to Korean parents on October 11, 1989, Wie has always enjoyed special attention in Asia during a career that has seen her make sporting headlines since before she was a teenager. At the age of 10, she qualified for the US Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. At 11, she won Hawaii’s two biggest women’s titles. At 12, she became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event.

 

At 13, Wie became the youngest player to make an LPGA cut, achieving the feat six times in seven events in 2013, mostly competing on sponsor’s exemptions. In June that year, the towering teen won the US Women’s Amateur Public Links, becoming the youngest winner in the 108-year history of USGA adult championships and major news.

 

Standing over six feet tall and regularly driving the ball over 300 yards, the affable Korean-American enjoyed enormous publicity and was often viewed as the Tiger Woods of the women’s game, bringing the sport to new audiences.

 

In January 2004, at 14, she teed up in the men’s Sony Open in Hawaii, becoming the youngest female to compete on the PGA Tour, while her second-round 68 matched the lowest round by a woman in a PGA event (she played the event for another three years). Wie went on to make the cut in all seven LPGA events she played that year.

 

Cristie Kerr, Wie, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer at a gala dinner at last year's Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

Cristie Kerr, Wie, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer at a gala dinner at last year’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

In 2005, she continued to make the cut at all her LPGA events, but was now often contending for titles. The 15-year-old finished runner-up at the LPGA Championship – the year’s second major – SBS Open and Evian Masters, and third at the Women’s British Open, another major. In October, she turned pro ahead of competing in the Samsung World Championship as a sponsor invite, although she was too young to become an LPGA member.

 

For the next three years, she continued to compete on the LPGA on sponsor’s exemptions, finishing runner-up once in 2006 and third three times, including at the US Women’s Open. In 2007, she enrolled at Stanford University, studying part-time and completing her studies in March 2012 with a major in communications.

 

At the end of 2008, she earned a full LPGA card for 2009 and won November’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational in her rookie season, while two runner-ups and two thirds helped her finish 14th on the money list. In December, she finished runner-up at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour.

 

She finished a career-high ninth on the LPGA money list in 2010, winning her second LPGA title at the Canadian Open in August. In 2011, she had two runner-up finishes and finished 18th on the money list, while her sixth-place finish in the Kraft Nabisco Championship marked her first top-10 finish in a major since 2006.

 

However, Wie’s form fell away last year as she struggled with her putting, the former teen idol recording just one top-10 finish during the season.

 

This year, she has shown signs of improvement and in June recorded back-to-back ninth-place finishes at the LPGA Classic and LPGA Championship, the latter marking her ninth top-10 finish in a major. Currently World No. 86, Wie is far from her career-high of three, but is excited to prove to fans in Asia that she’s on her way back.

 

Interview with MICHELLE WIE

 

As your parents are from Korea and you were born with dual Korean and US nationality, how do you view yourself and do you get special attention when you come to Asia?

For sure, I’m very proud of my heritage. I’m very proud to be Korean, so I’m very proud to be Asian. I always get very excited about coming back to Asia, especially because the food’s really good! Coming back to Asia is always great and hopefully people are excited to see me as well.

 

Always among the LPGA's most popular players in Asia, Wie will compete for a fourth straight year in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Photos: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

Always among the LPGA’s most popular players in Asia, Wie will compete for a fourth straight year in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Photos: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

 

After a disappointing 2012, how do you feel about your game this year and do you feel any extra pressure from not winning since 2010?

I struggled a lot last year, but I really feel like I’m coming back strong. I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident every tournament I play. I’m putting in the work. I’m especially looking forward to the Sime Darby Malaysia and hopefully a win will come soon. However, I’m being patient and focusing on trying my best each week and enjoying myself.

 

You know, it’s golf, so it comes and goes in waves. I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now and I’m more and more confident every week. It’s starting to really come together and I’m putting in a lot of hard work. A lot of times when you don’t play well, you lose confidence, so I just really need to keep believing in myself and pushing myself. That’s what I’ve really got to do.

 

You’ll be competing for the fourth straight year at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, where you’ve finished 32nd, 18th and 38th. How will you approach the tournament this year and what are you most looking forward to?

I’ve been tweaking my game strategy there. I think I haven’t found the right clubs for a couple of the holes, but I feel good about this year and hopefully something good will happen. I absolutely love Kuala Lumpur and I love KLGCC. Everyone’s so nice and friendly, the food’s so great; it feels like home to me. I feel so welcome there.

 

What are the main challenges at KLGCC – the weather or the course?

Both! It’s very physically demanding being so hot, but you get used to it pretty quickly. I think the course is very tricky. I haven’t quite found the right game strategy to go around it, but hopefully when I play the practice rounds this time, I can really zone in on what I want to do and commit to it. That has been the problem the last couple of times in this tournament. I need to pick what I’m going to do off the tee and commit to it.

 

Wie believes her form has been slowly improving this year after a disappointing 2012.

Wie believes her form has been slowly improving this year after a disappointing 2012.

 

You’ve adopted an awkward-looking putting style this year. Is it working?

I think statistics don’t lie. Last year I didn’t putt very well at all. I was close to being 140 on the LPGA rankings for putting (she finished 119th in putting average). I actually jumped up to about 35 this year and I’ve hovered around that (she’s currently 30th in putts per greens in regulation, 68th in putting average). That’s a pretty big jump. Honestly, I feel good with it right now.

 

I think if you ask any professional golfer in the world to choose between looking cool or making putts, they would choose making putts any day. It may look funny, but it’s comfortable to me and that’s really the most important thing. I don’t really care how I look. There are other putting techniques, putting stances, grips, that aren’t normal, but the players use them because they’re comfortable and they’re making putts and that’s the most important thing.

 

You’re 23, but you’ve been in the public eye and competing in LPGA events for over a decade. How do you assess your career so far?

It feels weird, but I don’t feel very young, but when you look at it, I am still very young. I’m only 23. My career is just starting. I’m so grateful and I feel so blessed every time I think about the experiences I’ve had since I was 13 or 12 or whenever I started playing. I have so many great memories and experiences, and with my ups and downs, those have made me who I am right now. I think that the lows make you appreciate your highs. Everything has kind of happened for a reason. One door closes and then another one opens.

 

Right now, though, I’m just focusing on the present. A lot of the times when I struggled a lot, I dwelt too much on the past. It sounds like a cliché, but I’ve learned to focus more on being in the present. I’m working really hard and just enjoying myself.

 

As a child prodigy who earned a lot of fame as a young teenager, do you see any parallels between yourself and Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese who made the cut and was low amateur at this year’s Masters Tournament?

I briefly watched highlights, so I didn’t see a lot of it, but from what I saw, he’s extremely talented; I mean, that’s an understatement. I really am impressed and really excited to see what he does in the future.

 

When I see him, I don’t really compare him to me at all. Everyone has unique experiences. He’s living his own path, I’m living mine, and they’re two very different paths. I think, each to their own. I’m just very excited for him. I think he’s extremely talented and we’re going to see a lot of great things from him in the future.

 

Wie posted a photo of her and Jessica Korda in Beijing on her Twitter account.

Wie posted a photo of her with Jessica Korda in Beijing.

You’re very active on social media, especially Twitter and Instagram. Do you enjoy these connections with your followers and fans?

I think it’s a great platform for people to get to know me. A lot of times people think they get to know me through articles, but those are written through another person’s eyes. Through Twitter and Instagram, I feel that people can really get to know me through me instead of through someone else’s eyes.

 

I love food, I love art, and doing all these things, so I can’t help wanting to share these with people and take pictures of where I am. My fans are very important to me and this way they get to know me a little better through unfiltered eyes. People seem to enjoy it and I just want to show them that it’s okay to have fun.

 

Wie enjoyed a recent visit to a shooting range in Austin, Texas.

Wie enjoyed a recent visit to a shooting range in Texas.

You recently revealed that you swapped the driving range for a shooting range. Can you tell us more?

I went to a bachelorette party in Austin (Texas) and my friend wanted to do something different and said she always really wanted to try shooting, so we had a go.

 

It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. It was the first time I’ve ever shot a gun and it was extremely scary. It was extremely scary to see what guns can actually do, but I have to say that I had a lot of fun at the range and I think it’s a great sport.

 

Interview arranged by Brand Rapport on behalf of Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. For more information on the tournament, visit www.simedarbylpgamalaysia.com

 

2013 LPGA ‘Asian Swing’

Oct 3-6:         Reignwood LPGA Classic, Beijing, China (US$1.8m)

Oct 10-13:     Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (US$2.0m)

Oct 18-20:     LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship, Incheon, Korea (US$1.9m)

Oct 24-27:     Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, Taoyuan, Taiwan (US$2.0m)

Nov 8-10:       Mizuno Classic, Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan (US$1.2m)

 

2011-1-15_sqMICHELLE WIE

Sport: Golf

Country: USA

Residence: Jupiter, Florida

Born: October 11, 1989; Honolulu, Hawaii

Height: 1.85m

LPGA victories:

2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational

2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open

Selected achievements (majors):

Kraft Nabisco Championship: T3 – 2006, 4/LA – 2004, 6 – 2011, T9 – 2003

LPGA Championship: 2/LA – 2005, T5 – 2006, T9 – 2013

US Women’s Open: T3 – 2006

Women’s British Open: T3/LA – 2005

Key: LA = Low Amateur

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