PHOENIX – Michelle Wie has made more important putts late on a Sunday afternoon, but the 30-footer she rolled in at the 18th hole Saturday morning at the JTBC Founders Cup sure felt important in the moment.
Wie knew she needed to hole the putt to make the cut.
“I think those putts are more nerve racking than putts to win a tournament,” Wie said. “It felt good. A lot of putts out there today just didn’t drop.”
Wie stepped to the 16th tee knowing she was two shots outside the projected cutline and in danger of missing her second cut this season. She birdied there, closing with two birdies over the final three holes.
“I kind of knew all morning,” Wie said of her position in relation to the cutline. “I had the bogey on 12, and I just needed to get things going. I had a lot of birdie chances from there on, and they just didn’t drop. I’m very thankful that I have a chance this weekend to shoot low.”
Wie has been battling an illness for the last month. She missed the cut at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in her second start, struggling through the second round with flu-like symptoms. She later learned she had strep throat, which morphed into a sinus infection during the Asian Swing.
In four starts this year, Wie’s best finish is a tie for 24th in the season opener at the Coates Golf Championship. She’s still on antibiotics.
With Phoenix in a “very high” pollen count alert, Wie was asked how she’s feeling.
“I’m actually OK,” she said. “I’ve been on the Claritin, all the allergy stuff, so I’m actually feeling a lot better and sleeping through the night, which is nice.”
Wie has been focusing on her downswing all week. Before stepping into her address, she has been making an exaggerated motion with her left hip, thrusting it out toward the target, and following with a few pumps of her downswing.
While it may look different, Wie says it’s basically a movement she has been working on for two seasons.
“Just trying to get the hip in the right place,” Wie said. “Obviously, get a little snatchy, a little quick, so just working on my tempo, slowing down my hips a little bit, and letting my body catch up.”
David Leadbetter, Wie’s swing coach, says they’re trying to recreate the feeling that worked so well when she won the U.S. Women’s Open last summer.
“Trying to get the feel of the lower body leading, and the lag angle being behind her,” Leadbetter said. “Her pre-shot routine is a drill, just an exaggeration of the feeling. We’re just trying to get her close to the feels she had last season.”