Welcome back to the Hot Seat, where the aim is to gauge who is facing the most heat to perform in professional golf.
With the PGA Tour turning this week to the Valero Texas Open and the LPGA to the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, here is our special heat index:
Hawaiian Wasabi – Michelle Wie
The Big Wiesy’s game has gone cold so far this season. She could use a spark to ignite the old fire. A trip home and a spot on the Hot Seat might be just what are required to rev her up for a summer run.
With the LPGA returning to Hawaii for the first time in three years, Wie will be back among friends this week, back near the Honolulu home where she grew up. Ko Olina Golf Club is located just outside Honolulu. Oahu is where Wie built her game, where she built the confidence that made her a teen phenom.
Wie needs her confidence back. She’s coming off back-to-back missed cuts at the Kia Classic and Kraft Nabisco Championship. In 12 rounds this season, she has broken par just once. Her scoring average is 75.41. Yes, her life was a whirlwind with her graduation from Stanford a few weeks ago, but life should be slowing down again now.
“I just think I over-think things,” Wie said as she missed the cut at Kraft Nabisco. “It takes me to places where I try too hard.”
If there’s one element of the game where that is most evident, it’s when Wie is putting. Despite long sessions on practice putting greens, Wie is struggling mightily with the flat stick. She ranks 128th on tour in putting per greens in regulation. After going to the belly putter in the middle of last summer, she returned to a standard putter at the Kraft, but the problem doesn’t seem to be in the chosen tools.
“It’s hard to watch,” said Stacy Lewis, who played behind Wie in the first two rounds of the Kraft and played with her at the Kia Classic. “You can tell she just doesn’t have confidence with it. She takes a lot of time. You almost just want her to just tap it in, just tap it in, and go with it. I know she is frustrated by it. She just needs to putt like a kid and get up there and hit it and if it goes in, it goes in.”
Putt like a kid again? Hawaii’s the place for that with Wie returning to her childhood “playground.”
Hawaiian Heat – I.K. Kim
There’s no hiding from it, no escaping it, no hoping everyone will just forget.
I.K. Kim will be making her first LPGA start this week since she missed the 12-inch putt that cost her the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
So many folks felt for her, so many will be rooting for her to rebound, but you don’t miss a chance like that without getting wounded in some way. We’ll see how the healing is progressing at the Lotte Championship.
Texan Habanero – Heath Slocum
It’s a big month for the Blackwater River region in the Florida Panhandle.
A week after Bubba Watson won the Masters, Boo Weekley made a run at winning his third RBC Heritage, ultimately tying for sixth.
Watson, Weekley and Slocum all hail from the same area. All three played golf at Tanglewood Country Club and all three graduated from Milton (Fla.) High School.
When Watson won the Masters, it gave him four PGA Tour titles, equaling Slocum’s total. Weekley has won two PGA Tour titles. Both Slocum and Weekley are in the field at the Valero Texas Open this week. Slocum is coming back from an off year, the first year in his 10 full seasons on the Tour that he didn’t record a top-10 finish. His last victory came at the McGladrey Classic at the end of 2010.