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Belly ache: Wie's putting a 'work in progress'

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DUNSANY, Ireland – Michelle Wie’s putting may be all that stands between her and fulfillment of her dreams.

Wie finished tied for fifth in putting (per greens in regulation) in her rookie season in ’09. She dropped to a tie for 79th last year and is 77th this season.

She’s missed too many good birdie chances to consistently land on leaderboards, too many short putts to save rounds, and yet she didn’t seem to miss anything in her first Solheim Cup. Her putting was crazy good at Rich Harvest Farms, where nearly every important putt she looked at disappeared in the hole on her way to a 3-0-1 record.

When Wie’s pouring in putts like she did at the 2009 Solheim Cup, it infects her entire game. That’s the X-factor in what lies ahead.

'It all boils down to putting for Michelle as it does for all players,” said David Leadbetter, Wie’s swing coach. “She is getting more comfortable with the belly putter.”

Wie first gave a belly putter a try at the Evian Masters in late July. It’s a Nike Method One with a 46-inch shaft. She missed the cut at Evian, but she looked good with it at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, finishing second a month ago. After that, she struggled missing the cut at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and then tied for 68th with a tough weekend at the Navistar LPGA Classic.

Wie doesn’t use the belly putter as an anchor fixed to her mid-section. She uses it much the way Matt Kuchar does, with the shaft braced against her left forearm.

Leadbetter oversees Wie’s swing and short game, but he doesn’t do much with her putting. In her long work on practice putting greens, her father, B.J., and mother, Bo, are the only constants.

'I found out that putting is kind of a very personal thing,” Wie said. “I do take advice from a couple of people, but mostly I just kind of have to rely on myself.”

Wie has searched long and far for putting help, switching putters and grips over recent years. She worked with Dave Stockton before the last Solheim Cup, then went to Dave Pelz last year. She’s gone through the AimPoint Green Reading program, a scientific based approach.

Leadbetter sees in all the searching Wie’s intense desire to improve, but he’s also talked to her about finding a consistent approach.

'Michelle’s the kind of person who likes to tinker and experiment,” Leadbetter said. “It’s about finding consistency. She knows that, and she needs to settle on something and get comfortable and confident with it.

'The belly putter’s a work in progress, and she seems to like it.”

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