Breakthrough Coming


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McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. ' Michelle Wies quietly regaining her mojo.
Thats what swing coach David Leadbetter sees as Wie prepares for the McDonalds LPGA Championship.
While critics wonder if Wie will ever realize her vast potential, Leadbetter senses a breakthrough coming.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie finished second as a 15-year-old at the 2005 McDonald's LPGA. (Getty Images)
Leadbetter may be in the Wie camp, but that doesnt blind him to his students weaknesses. In fact, over the years, he hasnt pulled his punches when assessing her game and choices.
Michelle is starting to hit it a lot better, very, very solidly, Leadbetter said. Were really happy with the way shes swinging. Shes putting better. More than anything now, its the mental side of the game she needs to work on. Sometimes, she makes poor decisions.
Leadbetter would love to see Wie claim her first victory at the McDonalds LPGA Championship.
The irony wouldnt be lost on him.
It would be fitting, he said.
Wie built resentment among LPGA members with all the sponsor exemptions she garnered as a non-member. None was more controversial than the one she received to play in the McDonalds LPGA Championship in 2005. Thats the members championship, and there was a proud tradition in that, but the LPGA changed its rules to invite Wie, the top amateur. She finished second as a 15-year-old that year.
As an LPGA rookie who won exempt status in qualifying school last winter, Wie takes great pride in having earned her membership.
I still feel like I have to improve a lot, Wie said. I feel like Im nowhere near where I could be. I still feel like Im learning something new about the game every day.
Val Skinner, a six-time LPGA winner, sees Wie still learning how to win. Wie hasnt won a tournament since the 2003 U.S. Womens Amateur Public Links Championship, when she was 13.
I think Michelle needs a little deeper reserve when stress hits her with the putter, Skinner said. Where you see her lose a little bit of confidence is putting. That extra gear you go to over a 3-footer, thats her missing link in my view. Winning all those junior tournaments, that gave Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel a strong reserve.
Skinner finds herself looking for something else in Wie, too.
The great players, like Nancy Lopez, Kathy Whitworth and Annika Sorenstam, had a burning desire to be great, Skinner said. I think its in there with Michelle. She has all the tools to get to that place, but the one thing Im wondering is whether shes dug it out of the dirt enough times. Or has it been too easy a ride with too many exemptions? Thats what it comes down to. When its your turn and youre over a 4-footer, can you get it done? Is that goal deep enough that you will do whatever it takes to keep making that reserve deeper and deeper?
'Thats what Lorena Ochoa has. Lorena spent the season before last working on her short game two or three hours, taking a break, then going back at it for three or four hours.
Like Leadbetter, two-time LPGA winner Christina Kim sees a breakthrough coming.
People doubt Michelle, Kim said. Not gonna say nothing, but I dont doubt her.
In 17 major championships starts, Wie has six finishes of fifth or better, but none since 2006, since injuring her wrists, but she reports those injuries no longer bother her.
Feeling healthy, feeling good, waking up every morning and being excited to play, its just amazing, Wie said.
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