Jul
6
2012
Michelle Wie on graduating from Stanford, dealing with criticism and going to “Mt. Fuji”
By Stephanie Wei under Interviews

Wie has chosen to see the glass "5% full" this season

Former child phenom Michelle Wie has struggled in the 2012 season, to say the least. She’s made only 6 cuts in 8 starts, with her best finish T33.

When she was 10, Michelle Wie became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship. At age 13, Wie became the youngest player to make an LPGA cut at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship. That same year in June, she became the youngest to win the Women’s Amateur Public Links. At age 16, she turned professional.

Now, she’s 22 and only won twice on the LPGA the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open. Last month she graduated from Stanford with a degree in communications — since she enrolled in 2007, she split her time as a college student and a professional golfer on the LPGA.

Underachiever? Depends on your perspective, which no doubt, is something Michelle has. Personally, I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. I always found the critiques of her attending Stanford to be amusing. Same with her golf game. I understand she’s an incredible talent — possibly the greatest we’ve ever seen — that hasn’t realized her potential (just watch her take one golf swing and you wonder how she’s not winning almost every tournament). Well, I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be a college student, especially at a university of Stanford’s caliber and play professional golf. It’s almost impossible. (Speaking for personal experience, it was hard enough balancing the demands of playing college golf and school — it’s tough to do both well.)

Earlier this week, I had an impromptu interview with Michelle. (I mean, literally, I emailed IMG and five minutes later, I got a call from the VP of PR, saying he was putting Michelle on the phone in a few minutes.) Uh, I was a little unprepared, which wasn’t exactly how I envisioned feeling going into my first conversation with her, but I winged it and think the interview turned out well.

Michelle was pretty much how I thought she’d be — polite, friendly, bubbly, funny, self-deprecating and incredibly normal. Now that’s what I find the most impressive: how normal she turned out. She could be defensive, closed-off and bitter (sound like someone else?!?), but she’s chosen not to be. For all the flak her parents get, they certainly raised a wonderful well-rounded young woman.

Oh, and of course, Michelle is playing in the U.S. Women’s Open this week. She opened with a solid 74, and she’s two-under through three holes in the second round, putting her at T14 at the moment. [*Update: Michelle fired a solid 66 (six-under) to surge up the leaderboard to T2 currently.]

OK, I’ve been rambling. I recommend reading the full Q&A at Golf.com, but here are some excerpts:

It’s been a bit of a struggle for you on the golf course so far this season. You’ve missed six cuts in eight starts and your best finish is T33. How have you dealt with it and what’s your frame of mind at the moment?
You can look at the glass half full or half empty or with my case this year, 5 percent full and 95 percent empty [Laughing]. I’m choosing to look at it 5 percent full. So with every round — as hard as it may be — I really try to make an effort to look at some of the good things I did that I can be proud of. I’m choosing to be positive because that’s the one thing I do have control over. So I’m at the point where my game feels good, I’m just one step away from it being really good.

You’ve struggled on the greens, and I’m sure you’re constantly asked about it, but what do you think the missing link is with your putting?
I’ve been talking a lot with Meg Mallon about it. She says, “This is how you have to look at it — you just have to look at yourself and say you’re a good putter.” As goofy as that may sound, it really is true. Putting is all confidence. You’ve got to tell yourself you’re a good putter and believe it. Every time someone asks me, “What’s wrong with your putting?” I think you can kind of take it like, well, what is wrong with my putting? It’s hard to not think about that, but I need to stop thinking about it that way. I know I’m a good putter. I’ve putted really well before and I can do it again. My stroke is feeling really good. Last couple of weeks I just felt like nothing went in. So, it needs to go in! [Laughter.]

Tell us about an embarrassing quirk or habit you might have that people probably don’t know about you.
I have no sense of direction. At the ShopRite Classic there’s an awesome sushi place called “Mt. Fuji.” My player-manager Jeehae Lee picked me up to meet up with Tina [Christina Kim] and some other girls. I was giving Jeehae directions from my phone map. About 15 minutes into our drive on the Garden State Parkway, Jeehae said, “Where are we going? I thought this place was close!” I looked at my phone again and I was confused — why does it say it takes 27 days and 9 hours to get there? Turns out I was directing us to the real Mt. Fuji. So that was a little embarrassing, but more funny than anything.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

(Getty Images/Scott Halleran)