It’s hard to remember a time when Michelle Wie wasn’t in the limelight. But after a rough 2016 that saw her drop to No.182 in the world ranking, it might be hard for some to remember when she was playing well.
But it’s a new year and the former US Open champion is now fully fit and enters the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open with new clubs, a fresh outlook and a different putting technique.
Wie missed the cut the last time she played the Australian Open, back in 2013 at Royal Canberra.
This year, the 27-year-old is bringing a new attitude to Royal Adelaide that prioritises and emphasises fun.
“I’m excited, I just want to be healthy – I want to have fun out there playing,” the American said. “That’s when I play my best.”
Most players would attest the fact that golf is at its most fun when putts are dropping, which they haven’t been for Wie.
Wire recently abandoned the ‘tabletop’ technique in favour of a conventional stance and a ‘claw’ grip – à la Sergio Garcia – in a bid to improve her putting stats.
“I stuck with the table-top for a long time and sometimes you just need a different feel,” said Wie, who also went in search of a new putting grip on the Internet.
“I Googled ‘Claw’. I looked at Phil’s (Mickelson) claw, Sergio’s claw … looked at a lot of grips in the past two weeks while I’ve been practicing but this feels good.
“It’s kind of fun to try out different grips, but this feels the most comfortable to me.”
Although she looks more comfortable over the ball, she acknowledges good results will take time – but the former World No.6 is still enjoying the grind.
“I love being out there. I love the game,” she said. “I love trying to get better every day. Especially after having a tough year last year … you’re definitely more motivated to go out there and work harder than anyone else.”
Wie’s 2016 season was plagued by injury and unrealised expectations that saw her make just 13 cuts from 25 tournament starts.
“I was glad to see 2016 over,” Wie said. “It was a tough year. There’s no talking around that and trying to make it sound pretty.
“But it was also a growing year and I felt like in the last part of the year, the Asian Swing and then Mexico, I thought I played really well … had a top-10 and that was a really great way to end the year for me.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and this year I’m trying not to do that. I want to go out there and have fun,” she said.
When Nike stopped manufacturing clubs and balls, Wie had to find a new manufacturer for the first time since she was 14. She has since signed with Callaway and has praised the company for its work during the transition phase.
“Callaway has done such a great job of easing me into it. They came over to Florida quite a number of times to get the right clubs in my hands,” she said.
With new clubs, a fresh putting technique and a full bill of health, Wie is hoping to get a massive confidence boost out of this week’s championship.
“I’d be happy if I played out there and I felt really confident all four days,” she said. “I just want to go out there and build some confidence. I want to hit some good shots, make some putts and just build confidence.”