Six months after undergoing surgery to repair multiple ailments within her right hand, Michelle Wie announced she is going to “take some time away” to more fully heal.
Wie made the announcement Tuesday on Instagram and Twitter, while also withdrawing from this week’s Hugel-Air Premia LA Open.
“Had an encouraging visit with my doctor, however, we both think it’s in my best interest to take some time away to allow my body to heal properly and get stronger,” Wie wrote. “Health is my top priority right now and hopefully I can get back to being pain free real soon. Thank you everyone for staying patient with me. I appreciate y’all.”
Wie, 29, is trying to make her way back after undergoing surgery last October to repair an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment in her right hand. She missed the cut at the Lotte Championship last week, where she appeared to experience another setback, yelping in pain after knocking a drive out of bounds in the first round. She also missed the cut at the ANA Inspiration two weeks earlier. In her start before the ANA, she withdrew from her title defense at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore, where she said “nerve entrapment” was still an issue. She was 10 over after 14 holes when she withdrew.
“She’s more than just a student to me,” said David Leadbetter, Wie’s longtime swing coach. “She’s almost like a daughter, I’ve known her so long. You hate to see this. It’s tough to watch.”
Leadbetter said Wie was examined by a hand specialist while in Los Angeles Monday, a doctor who helped her through wrist issues in the past, and he advised her to take at least a month off without touching a golf club. Her hand was operated on by a New York hand specialist last fall.
“This is pretty serious,” Leadbetter said. “Your hands are everything, and you don’t want this to become career ending.”
Leadbetter said he knows Wie would like to play in the U.S. Women’s Open in five weeks, but he is advising her that’s probably too early.
“I’m trying to talk her out of that,” Leadbetter said. “Who knows how the U.S. Women’s Open will be set up, but you would think there is going to be thick rough.
“I’ve been advising her to take as much time off as she needs and get this right, because there’s no point in coming back and reinjuring it, where you could be right back at square one.”
Both of Wie’s wrists have been issues in the past. She broke her left wrist in a fall in 2007. She said last year that she was diagnosed with arthritis in both wrists, and that she had undergone so many cortisone injections that doctors advised her cortisone was no longer a viable treatment. She began taking injections of collagen, instead, a more natural substance.
“Trying to recreate some cartilage, more space in my joints,” she said a little more than a year ago.
Wie made her debut this year at the Honda LPGA Thailand in late February, four months after her surgery.
“I just thought she came back way too early,” Leadbetter said. “I didn’t think she would be fully healed or would be that competitive coming back then.
“Michelle is trying. She gets 100 percent for effort. She’s dying to get back out there again, but you have to let nature take its course.”
Leadbetter said Wie has to be careful she doesn’t do more than threaten her game by rushing back to competition. He has never been afraid of telling her things she doesn’t want to hear.
“You have a life outside of golf,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t want to be 40 years old and have the worst arthritis in her wrists and sort of be incapacitated. You have to think of life going forward. She’s getting married, and maybe wants to have kids.”
Leadbetter believes Wie has some good years in the game ahead, but that future is dependent on her finally staying healthy.
“It’s sad, so much of her career has been blighted by injuries,” he said.
Neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries also have plagued Wie.
Leadbetter and Wie’s interaction has evolved over the years. While they’ve continued to work closely together, Wie has taken more control of her swing as an incorrigible tinkerer, always looking for improvements. Leadbetter has become more a trusted adviser, fixer and editor of movement these days.
Leadbetter is advising change when she returns. He believes any sustained future success in her career may hinge on reworking her swing. He has pushed Wie to change her swing for a few years now, to play with less restriction of her hips, with a less tightly wound swing, with less torque and coil and less wrist cock. He liked the swing she modeled after Steve Stricker going to the UL International Crown, with more of a dead-wrist takeaway, but she abandoned that in her return this year.
“The only way Michelle is going to be successful going forward is if she’s reasonably injury-free,” Leadbetter said. “So, I think that’s going to be a case of A, pacing herself and managing her game, and B, creating a technique that doesn’t put so much stress on her body.
“That’s something we talk about. You look at the swing she won the U.S. Women’s Open with [in 2014], there was a very conscious effort to set the wrists and hold the angle. If you’ve got weak wrists, susceptible to injury, that’s not the way to go. I think she has to look at a couple different options if she’s going to play going forward.”