Altvater: Is Michelle Wie ready to win a major championship?Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Michelle Wie is just 24 years old, but has been a professional golfer for nearly 10 years.
The LPGA Tour is reluctant to admit membership to women under the age of 18. Rather than fight the tour for spots in their tournaments, when she turned professional at the age of 15, Wie and her parents decided to enter several PGA Tour events and build her brand name for huge endorsement dollars.
At the age of 10, she became the youngest woman ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur and she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at 15 years old.
From 2003-06, Wie posted top-10 finishes in seven of the 12 women’s major championships that she entered. She was low amateur in six of those events prior to turning professional.
In 2008 as a professional, she finished T-3 in the Kraft Nabisco, T-5 in the LPGA Championship and T-3 in the U.S. Women’s Open.
She won the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open, but has not fulfilled the promise expected from her over the years.
As is the case with so many young golfing prodigies, other distractions in life can affect a golf game.
Wie decided to attend college and graduated from Stanford in 2012. Golf fans expected her to immediately be a factor on the LPGA Tour. She entered 23 tournaments in 2012 and only posted one top-10 finish. Her total earnings of $158,500 left at No. 64 on the money list and searching for answers.
In 26 starts on the 2013 LPGA Tour, Wie only finished inside the top 10 on four occasions and ended the year at No. 41 on the money list with $355,000. Wie fell to No. 33 in driving distance and was No. 55 in putting average with 29.88 putts per round. Her confidence was slipping away.
She made the decision to switch to a severely bent over putting style that helps her see the line and start the ball rolling on the correct path.
More importantly than any swing change or practice routine, her longtime coach David Leadbetter advised her to take five weeks away from the game at the end of 2013.
She took that advice and did everything other than play golf in December. She has come back in 2014 with a much better attitude and is once again enjoying being on the golf course.
Even though her putting statistics are not among the top-10 on tour, she is striking the ball with a renewed confidence and leads the LPGA Tour in greens-in-regulation at 81 percent.
With the win at the LPGA Lotte Championship, she is No. 2 in the Race to the CME Globe and No. 1 on the LPGA Tour money list with $616,500 in earnings.
If you want to learn how to swing a golf club correctly, watch Michelle Wie. It is one of the most technically correct golf swings I have ever seen on any golf tour.
She is playing within herself, not forcing drivers off every tee and relying on her magnificent iron play to put her in position to make birdies and pars.
Her game is just right for major championship golf courses.
If Wie can have just an average week of putting and keep three-putts to a minimum at a major championship, she will be hoisting a major championship trophy in the very near future.