Michelle Wie and Kevin Garnett are friends off the course and outside the ropes, brought together by William Morris Agency, a Hollywood marketing firm that also serves, among others, tennis star Serena Williams, actor Russell Crowe and rapper 50 Cent.
And whether Garnett knows it or not, he's helping Wie with her ongoing attempt to resurrect a brilliant young golf career that went astray.
Wie, the former amateur phenom, studies KG. Admires KG. Wants to be like KG.
No, it's not his golf game she's studying. It's the work ethic and desire of a man who went from teenage Timberwolves star to league MVP to possibly winning an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics as early as tonight.
"I'm a big fan of Kevin Garnett's," Wie said. "I've never seen anyone with that much intensity. He just plays with so much intensity that when I see him on the court, I just think to myself, 'I want to be like that.' I want to make people think I have that much intensity, too."
Rebounding from struggles
Wie's struggle began in late 2006. A wrist injury in early 2007 and the ensuing loss of confidence caused her to miss three cuts, finish near the bottom of the field three times and withdraw from two tournaments, including the U.S. Women's Open, where she was 17 over through 27 holes.
No longer was Wie the free-swinging 12-year-old who burst onto the world's golf stage by qualifying for an LPGA Tour event in 2002. Nor was she the can't-miss superstar who shot a 66 in the LPGA Championship at age 13, a 68 in a PGA Tour event at age 14 and collected seven top-10 finishes in women's majors before her 17th birthday.
"When you're struggling week after week, you do start to wonder if you can make it back," Wie said. "It takes a toll on you."
Wie still hasn't made it back to where she was two years ago, when she finished in the top five of three women's majors, including a tie for third at the U.S. Women's Open. But she does feel she's on the right track heading into the U.S. Women's Open at Edina's Interlachen Country Club in two weeks.
On Monday she shot 4-under-par 137 to finish second at the 36-hole sectional qualifier in Rockville, Md. And that came a week after she finished sixth in a Ladies European Tour event in Germany.
"It feels really good to be playing well again," Wie said after the sectional qualifier. "It feels good to have confidence in my shots again. I feel like my distance is coming back. I'm pretty pleased, and I'm really happy to be playing at the U.S. Open."
Wie was 2 over par through 14 holes on Monday. But with KG-like focus, she birdied three of the final four holes in her morning round at Woodmont Country Club, jumped in an SUV with her father, B.J., and mother, Hyun Kyong, drove 5 miles to Manor Country Club and shot an impressive 3-under 67.
The only person in the 121-player field who did better was LPGA player Kelli Kuehne (5-under 136) -- the same Kelli Kuehne who finished tied for sixth in the LPGA Championship the day before.
"You can see that Michelle's confidence is brewing," said her caddie, Kenny Harms. "She putted really well today."
Wie one-putted six of her final eight holes. But the putter wasn't her only strength.
Her driver was massive, particularly when compared to that of her playing partners, Tonya Choate of Nevada and Sue Ginter of Wisconsin. At one point late in the morning round, Choate left the tee box, pumping her fist and joking, "Yeah! I'm only 75 yards behind" Wie.
But as impressive as Wie's putting and driving were, it was her crisp iron play that might have been the best signal that a comeback is in the making. Her distance control was nearly flawless, including a tee shot on a 157-yard par-3 that stopped less than 2 feet from the cup.
"I felt the irons would be the last to come around because you're impacting the ground on your irons," Wie said. "I broke my wrist in February . This, I think, is the best I've hit my irons since before the injury."
No school, just hard work
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