Michelle Wie is showing a late-season spark in what was shaping up to be her worst full season as a professional.
With a 5-under-par 66 Thursday at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Wie posted her lowest score in an LPGA event in a year, since she opened last year’s Sime Darby with a 66. She’s tied for third, three shots off the lead.
This effort comes just a week after Wie tied for 10th at the Blue Bay LPGA, her first top-10 finish in almost two years, since she tied for fifth at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in 2014, the year she won the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I just had fun out there today,” Wie said after her round.
There hasn’t been a lot of fun for Wie between the ropes this year. She played the Blue Bay LPGA and now the Sime Darby on sponsor exemptions because she didn’t qualify for the Asian Swing’s limited-field events with her low standing on the money list. She’s 111th in money winnings this season, her poorest showing in eight years as an LPGA member. She had plummeted to 167th in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings going to China last week.
After tying for 55th at the Evian Championship, Wie didn’t play the LPGA for a month, and the rest seems to have served her well.
“Just really kept my body right,” Wie said. “Just really took time off and really tried to get healthy again. I did a lot of rehab and just practiced and tried to play a lot.”
Wie healed some minor nagging injuries, from the wear and tear of a long year, according to her management team.
“It’s great Michelle is feeling injury free and free to play,” said Sean Hogan, David Leadbetter’s long-time associate and director of instruction at Leadbetter’s ChampionsGate headquarters.
Wie’s penchant for constantly tinkering, experimenting and changing her swing has been an issue since year’s start, when Leadbetter challenged her to stick to one approach. Hogan said Wie has a tendency to over-practice and it affects her swing and her body.
“When she’s rested and just goes out and plays and doesn’t overthink things, that’s a good place for her to be,” Hogan said. “If she isn’t over-practicing, she can keep it simple. Her natural instincts are very good.”
It was a brutal summer for Wie, as she went through a four month-run where she missed the cut or withdrew in 11 of 14 events. She’s 128th on tour in scoring today, her worst standing since she joined the LPGA. She’s 133rd hitting greens in regulation, also her worst statistical showing on tour, and she’s 120th in putts per greens in regulation, her second-worst standing as a tour member.
This Asian run, however, is giving Wie something nice to build upon in what had to be a frustrating year.
Wie isn’t eligible for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. She isn’t in the Toto Japan Classic next week and can’t get in even if she wins in Malaysia. Playing on a sponsor exemption, she can’t win CME points, either. That means Wie’s final LPGA appearance this year will come at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in two weeks. There should be some good late-season mojo for her there, too. She won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational as her first LPGA title back in ’09.
Wie seems determined to make the most of this fall finish. She’s in the early hunt in Malaysia to try to send a jolt into the LPGA ranks by winning her fifth LPGA victory. Even if she doesn’t win, she is in position to claim back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time since the autumn of 2014, when she tied for fifth at the KEB HanaBank Championship and then tied for third at the Blue Bay LPGA.
“I enjoy this golf course,” Wie said of the TPC Kuala Lumpur. “I love the fans here. I love the energy here. I love everything about this golf course and the tournament.”
A strong finish this week and again at Ochoa’s event in Mexico City will give Wie something strong to build upon as she heads into a long offseason.