Michelle Wie is hoping this week’s U.S. LPGA Tour stop in her Hawaiian homeland will help her turn around a lackluster season.
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She’s 91st in the world ranking after breaking 70 only once in 18 rounds this season. She’s coming off a season-best tie for 41st two weeks ago in the Kraft Nabisco Championship – after starting the tournament with an apology from Annika Sorenstam for being quoted as saying the former child prodigy hasn’t shown the talent that initially made her a star.
The 23-year-old Wie says it’s nice to be home, where she’s more relaxed.
Wie grew up in Honolulu, not far from the Ko Olina Golf Club, where the Lotte Championship is in its second year.
”As soon as you get off the plane, that smell – everything,” she said on Tuesday. ”It’s great to play in front of a home crowd and hopefully a lot of people will come out tomorrow.”
A friendly, familiar crowd couldn’t hurt Wie, who won the last of her two tour titles in 2010 and has received a lot of attention lately for her new putting style – an unorthodox stance where she bends at the waist, her back straight and nearly parallel to the ground with her eyes peering straight over the ball.
Wie had an up-and-down practice round on Tuesday, taking extra time between shots to work on her technique and chat with her parents, who walked the course and occasionally chimed in with tips.
After her group in the pro-am finished each hole, Wie’s caddie frequently tossed out a ball for Wie to chip, putt, or hit from a bunker.
The Lotte Championship comes as Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and Yani Tseng battle for the top spot in the world rankings. Park, the LPGA Thailand and Kraft Nabisco winner this year, took over the top spot on Monday, ending Lewis’ four-week run at No. 1.
”That’s been the place that I always wanted to be,” Park said. ”It came as a bit of a shock because it came in an off week. But coming into this week that was one of my goals to reach, but it happened really early.”
Lewis also has two victories this year, winning consecutive events in Singapore and Phoenix. She was surprised to lose the No. 1 ranking on Monday.
”I mean, I expected it to probably happen at some point, but I definitely didn’t expect it in an off week,” Lewis said. ”It’s tough because I don’t know, I didn’t do anything wrong and I lost it.”
Ai Miyazato won the tournament last year.
”I have great memories from last year,” Miyazato said. ”Last year, it was only a three-day event but this year it’s going to be four days, so I think it’s going to be interesting.”
New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko is coming off a tie for 25th in the Kraft Nabisco. She won the Canadian Open in August to become the youngest tour winner at 15 years, 4 months, 2 days. The South Korea-born Ko has two other pro victories, the New South Wales Open last year and New Zealand Women’s Open this year. She’s ranked 22nd.