RICHMOND, Texas – This cursed LPGA season couldn’t end without one more painful episode.
And a little mystery.
Michelle Wie, who pumped as much hope as she did excitement into this difficult year with her breakthrough victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last week, withdrew Thursday from the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship after the first round with a left ankle injury.
Wie put up a terrific fight despite a pronounced limp right from the first tee. She was 2 under par before hobbling out of her stance after a wayward shot at the 17th sailed into a pond and led to double bogey.
She seemed so intent on getting into contention again, it was difficult to tell what hurt worse there. Her left ankle? Or right ankle? Or her competitive spirit?
Wie slapped her right thigh and cursed menacingly as her ball sailed wildly to the right. After signing for an even-par 72, six shots behind the leader (Ochoa), Wie left to have the ankle treated. About 45 minutes later, the tour announced she was withdrawing.
“This tournament, and the support shown from the fans in Houston, meant a lot to me and I wanted to do everything I could to fight through the injury,” Wie said in a statement. “It bothered me last week in Mexico , but I was able to play through the pain. I realized today that I wouldn’t be able to continue to play through it. I want to make sure that I’m being smart with it, so I will return home to have it looked at by my doctors and follow their advice for treatment.”
There’s some mystery surrounding Wie’s injury, exactly how it occurred and what made it worse.
She was asked after the round if she could clear up the mystery, but she wasn't interested in going into much detail.
“Just stepped in a couple holes here and there,” Wie said.
Christina Kim, who played with Wie, said her friend first injured her left ankle at the Solheim Cup.
“She twisted her ankle at Solheim Cup [in August] and didn’t notice how bad it was until the week after it happened because she was so pumped up and full of adrenaline,' Kim said. 'She re-twisted it in Alabama .”
Golf fans first saw Wie limping on the left ankle at the Navistar Classic in Alabama last month. Wie said at the time that she stepped into a hole there.
David Leadbetter, Wie’s swing coach, said Wie also developed trouble with her right ankle while winning the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last week.
“It was from compensating for the left ankle, putting more weight on the right ankle,” Leadbetter said.
Cristie Kerr, who also played with Wie on Friday, said she believed Wie was hurt again sometime during Wednesday’s pro-am day after a fan bumped Wie and she stepped into another hole. Kerr thought Wie hurt the right ankle doing that.
“I kept asking her if she was all right today,” Kerr said. “She was definitely hurting.”
Kim was impressed that Wie was in contention until that wayward shot at the 17th.
“She was able to handle the pain,” Kim said. “She’s a fighter. She missed a couple shots but overall was still very impressive considering how injured she was.”
Wie fans will be holding their breath until she makes her next appearance in three weeks. She’s scheduled to play in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. They also will be holding their breath that she won’t be running onto any football fields after another big Stanford victory. She’s a junior there. Wie said she joined the celebratory swarm when the student section poured onto the field after Stanford knocked off Oregon two weeks ago.
“I was standing up in front, like I almost died in the stampede there,” she said. “I kind of went with the crowd. It was fun.”
It looks like Wie will get to see Stanford-Cal play the Big Game on Saturday. Her legion of fans will be praying she has a good seat in front of her television with her ankle up. They remember what happened to Wie’s swing when she came back too quickly from those wrist injuries three seasons ago. It almost ruined her swing and sent her spiraling into a slump.
The LPGA can’t afford its curse to carry into the 2010 season.