Michelle Wie is at a crossroads.
Even her swing coach, David Leadbetter, sees it, and he tells her that. He sees it’s time to plot her path anew.
“Michelle has really got to re-prove herself,” Leadbetter said in the wake of Wie’s third consecutive missed cut in an LPGA event. “It’s time for her to make a plan, to really get structured now. If she’s going to fulfill her vast potential, she’s really got to get structured. It’s going to be interesting to see how she accepts the challenge. We’re trying to get a schedule going.”
Leadbetter believes Wie’s divided attention as she pursued a degree at Stanford the last four years has caught up with her. He believes something else, too. He believes there’s a transition she needs to make in her return to full time golf after graduating from Stanford last month.
“Certainly, Michelle hasn’t started the year very well, but everyone has to give her a little time, cut her a little slack,” Leadbetter said. “Yes, she does need to start performing, and we know she can, but golf is a funny sport. You get on a confidence run and anything’s possible. You lose your confidence and . . .”
Leadbetter believes Wie’s loss of confidence in her putting has generated frustration that has seeped into her long game. She is 128th in putting this season, but she also has slumped to 115th in greens in regulation, 44th in driving distance and 137th in driving accuracy.
“She’s very frustrated with the way she’s putting,” Leadbetter said. “I watched her shoot a 73 in the first round of Kraft Nabisco without making a putt longer than 2 feet. That puts pressure on your long game, where you start trying too hard, where you’re trying to hit the ball too close. It can be a bit of a vicious cycle.”
Leadbetter said Wie, 22, also has been going through a swing adjustment in trying to create a “stock shot” to rely upon, a left-to-right fade. He said she has fought a steep hook and straight-right miss in her work on it.
“It’s not quite natural yet,” Leadbetter said.
Leadbetter’s work with Wie has been limited by school with a lot of their work through video on the Internet. They haven’t had any long sessions to prepare for the start of a year in the last two seasons. Wie is still in Hawaii and isn’t playing the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic this week. Leadbetter said they’re planning a session together in Orlando in two weeks.
“With her focus more on finishing school, it’s been like, `Hey, I’ve got a tournament coming up, it’s time to cram,’” Leadbetter said. “Nicklaus used to get together with Jack Grout to prepare at the beginning of the year. We’ve done that in the past, but we really haven’t done that in the last year-and-a-half. I think that’s made a difference. She really needs the time.
“I am still very confident Michelle will have a good career. If she has the hunger and puts the time in, we all know what she is capable of.”