Watching Michelle Wie on television in Wednesday’s start of the Lotte Championship, swing coach David Leadbetter saw something encouraging beyond her swing.
With a 2-under-par 70 in heavy winds at Ko Olina Golf Club near the Honolulu home where she grew up, Wie moved into early contention in a bid to win in front of long-time friends.
“The biggest difference with Michelle right now is she really wants to play,” Leadbetter said. “She’s got her passion back to play. When you’ve got that going, with her talent level, who knows what that will bring.”
Wie will start the second round two shots off the lead. She’s coming off a second-place finish at the Kraft Nabisco, her best finish in a major. She leads the LPGA in scoring (69.75) and hitting greens in regulation (81 percent). Through a windy test in the first round at Ko Olina, she hit nine of 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation while taking 29 putts.
“When you are striking the ball solidly, the wind doesn’t affect it as much,” Leadbetter said. “She has the ball coming off the center of her club face. She’s very confident in her ball striking right now.”
Wie’s ability to flight her ball Wednesday with knockdown shots was another sign of the control she’s gaining over her game.
“Her swing’s pretty simple,” Leadbetter said. “When she wasn’t playing well, it was like, `Where’s that nice, long swing?’ Now that she’s playing well, they’re saying, `We love her short, compact swing.’”
Wie hasn’t been hitting a lot of drivers this year, but Leadbetter said that’s where a lot of her confidence is coming from, her ability to hit her driver so consistently again. He said that confidence filters down through her bag and whatever she’s hitting off the tee. He would like to see her hit a few more drivers than she is.
“Lexi Thompson hit a lot more drivers than Michelle at Kraft, but the couple times when Michelle did hit driver, she hit it past Lexi,” Leadbetter said. “I think as the weeks go on, Michelle is going to put a little more emphasis on her driver.