Wie Refreshed and Ready

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HONOLULU -- What do you call the hat youre wearing? I asked Michelle Wie as she strode out of her first press gathering of the New Year.

Its sort of the newsboy, golfer, chick hat, she said with a laugh.

Wie designed the hat, and though clearly not for 46-year-old male reporters, the fresh fashion splash does match her outlook as she preps for the Sony Open in Hawaii.

I feel very refreshed, she said.

Obviously, I was a little tired the last couple events and it showed, she said, referring to her late-season, critic-rousing flameout in mens events that read 78-79 at the European Masters in September, 77-81 at the 84 Lumber Classic later that month, then 81-80 at the Casio World Open in Japan over Thanksgiving..

The family learned and there were some growing pains, she added. Hopefully, well put together a better schedule in 07, Though the plans not been finalized, indications are the primary focus will be the LPGA, where she contended in three of four majors in 2006.

December brought better fortunes when she was admitted to Stanford. Im definitely going to graduate, she declared. Whether it takes four years, five years, six years or 100 years, Im going to graduate.

How shell mix professional golf and the rigors of high-level academia remains to be seen. Im just going to wing it, she said.

She also spent two weeks around Christmas in Florida working with swing coach David Leadbetter. I basically had a flat tire in my swing, she conceded. My swing feels better. I didnt think about school, I didnt think about anything. It was good.

Tuesday morning she joined up with David Toms and Joe Durant for nine holes with maybe 100 people in the gallery.

She just showed up and brought the fans with her, said Toms, whod just played a quiet nine with Durant.

She said she always wanted to play golf with me and that was nice.

I got some fairway karma from Joe D. and David Toms, said Wie. She got more than karma. She got advice after hitting several tee shots left into the rough.

I know where shes coming from with the draw, said Toms. Shes trying to hit it far to compete with the men.

Then she hit a left-to-right slider and I said, Thats what you need to be doing.

She needs to have it in the fairway because shes not going to overpower the course. I face it every week because Im not one of the longer hitters out here.
Wies long enough.'

'She actually out drove me on number nine, Toms added. 'She plays like a guy. She moves the ball, gets the ball in the air and creates speed around the greens.

Obviously she has a tremendous amount of talent, said Durant.

Not everyones been as understanding as the good natured Toms and Durant. Some believe Wies forays into mens golf are little more than publicity-seeking, marketing exercises. In response, Michelle says simply, This is what I want to do.

But is it in her best interest long term?

It obviously helps the tournament and as long as she enjoys it and it doesnt carry over negatively to what shes trying to do on the LPGA then I think its just fine, reasoned Toms. If she does well, then that could really help her confidence.

Durant has a 15-year-old daughter. Asked what hed do if his daughter had a special talent like Wies, he said, Id explore ways to develop that talent.

Added Toms, I cant imagine what I wouldve been like as a senior in high school and a tournament calling me asking to play beside the best players in the world. If someones offering a spot, why would you not do it?

Now making her fourth straight Sony Open appearance, the buzz is noticeably cooler and expectations actually lower given her play of late.

Before there was only pressure to succeed, theorized commentator Mark Rolfing. Now she just needs to not fail.

Would a pair of 72s to miss the cut be OK? I asked Rolfing.

Probably, he said.

What about 75-76?

Probably not.

Michelle will play with father B.J. on the bag, and viewers may be struck with just how tall shes gotten, with long arms and legs. Tuesday she wore vanilla pants with a turquoise top, her pigtails dangling from her cream colored hat. Her right wrist, tweaked when she hit a shot heavy off a cart path at the Samsung World Championship late last year, was heavily taped, but she said it was not a major hinderance. Practicing between Stuart Appelby and Luke Donald on the putting green, she appeared business-like, just another professional doing the necessary work.

A short time later, before the media, she recounted her recent experience as a teachers assistant for a Head Start pre-school with 3- and 4-year-olds. Her beautiful face softened. With a smile she said, It made me realize the joy of being young, of finding joy in the smaller things.

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