Wie hoping her game returns as sickness leaves

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PHOENIX – Michelle Wie doesn’t need a caddie these days as much as she does a nurse.

There’s nothing wrong with her game that a dose of antibiotics shouldn’t eventually fix.

That’s what her swing coach, David Leadbetter, believes as Wie prepares to begin the LPGA’s West Coast swing in the JTBC Founders Cup at the Marriott Wildfire Golf Club.

“Michelle’s had a pretty slow start to the year, but she’s been pretty sick,” Leadbetter said after watching Wie in a practice round Tuesday. “She’s been sick for a month.”

It turns out those “flu-like symptoms” Wie played with at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic was actually strep throat, which she took with her on the tour’s Asian swing, where it  morphed into a sinus infection.

“The doctor said that I probably won’t be feeling 100 percent for the next couple weeks,” Wie said. “I’m feeling a lot better, thankfully, but it’s been tough. Right now, my No. 1 priority is just getting my health back in order.”

Expectations were ratcheted up again for Wie entering this year. Coming off last year’s U.S. Women’s Open victory at Pinehurst and her victory at the Lotte Championship, Wie seemed poised for more success. She looked ready to make a run at the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She was playing that well through the middle of last year.

But then late last July, there was a finger injury, a “stress reaction” to the bone of the index finger of her right hand. It kept her out of action for about two months. Then, after taking a long six-week break in the off season, there is this lingering illness.

In four starts this year, Wie doesn’t have a top-10 or even top-20 finish. She missed the cut in the Bahamas, where she felt most ill.

Wie, 25, isn’t blaming all her sluggishness on how lousy she has been feeling.

“I think, maybe, I’ve just been trying too hard,” Wie said.

Wie ended last year fourth on tour in putts per greens in regulation. She was third in hitting greens in regulation and third in scoring. She’s 73rd in that putting category so far this year, 89th in hitting greens and 51st in scoring.

“Winning the U.S. Open, it gave me a lot of confidence,” Wie said. “Last year, in general, definitely gave me a lot of confidence, but you always want to do better. I think as a professional athlete, if you don't have that hunger, something's not right, and I think you have to put the right balance between wanting to do better, but then sometimes . . . just trying too hard.

“I think that's something I struggle with internally, is just trying too hard, and trying to make everything so perfect. I think that's what I did so well last year, is just letting go, letting go and just letting things happen.”

Christina Kim, Wie’s good friend, pretty much dismisses Wie’s last month as mostly irrelevant.

“I wouldn’t put any thought to her first four events of the year,” Kim said. “She was able to take a break after the end of last year, and that’s going to end up being huge. I think she’s going to have another very big year. It’s just a matter of making sure she’s rested enough.”

Wie had a couple top 10s in Asia early last year, and then she got hot on the West Coast. She battled Lexi Thompson in a final-round duel at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, finishing second. In her very next start, she won the Lotte Championship in front of hometown fans in Hawaii. She won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst six starts after that, holding off then Rolex world No. 1 Stacy Lewis in the end.

“We’re focused a little bit on just reminding Michelle what she did at Pinehurst,” Leadbetter said. “She’s pretty close, so expect her to play well in the next couple weeks.”

The ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco, is two weeks away. Wie should be a good fit again at Mission Hills in Palm Springs. She has five top-10 finishes there, three finishes of fourth or better.

“I'm definitely putting the work in,” Wie said. “That's the kind of mentality I have. I know I'm working hard. I know I'm putting in all the hours. I know that I'm doing everything I can, and when I go out there, I've just got to let things happen, and try to free things up, for sure.”

With a little help from some antibiotics, Wie is hoping good things return to her game this week.