Michelle Wie sees reconstruction ahead

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Putting the rigors of the past behind and moving on to the future is one of the hardest things for any athlete to do. Michelle Wie says she is up to the job.

The 18-year-old golfer struggled to find her groove for much of 2007, but is showing her readiness to compete this year by qualifying for the U. S. Women’s Open last week in Rockville, Md. The Open takes place next week in Minnesota.

“I feel a lot more confident about my game,” Wie said Tuesday at Locust Hill Country Club, where she’s in the field for this week’s Wegmans LPGA. “I see my improvement coming, so I’m very happy about that.”

Wie has taken some knocks from the press as she went from being billed as the “next Tiger Woods” to being ranked lower than No. 800 in the world, but she said it is not anything she cannot handle.

“I take it as a privilege to be the first to do that . . . and have that opportunity,” Wie said. “When that stops happening that’s when the trouble begins. The media is the media and they bring you up just to bring you down and that’s all part of the circus. I don’t really take part [in] that or read into anything.”

Wie, who is participating this week on a sponsor exemption, said she is feeling positive and confident about her game.

“I try to learn a lot when I go out and play in practice rounds,” she said. “Obviously a couple more players will have a lot more experience on these golf courses than I do, but I feel having a little more fresh eyes might help as well. So hopefully that will work to my advantage.”

When asked if women’s powerhouse Annika Sorenstam’s presence incites a rise in her competition level, Wie avoided a direct answer, saying that the course and field is challenging and she’s just going to try to play her best.

She battled a broken wrist last season, as well as some instability with her swing. She had a disappointing 84th-place showing at the 2007 Mc- Donald’s LPGA Championship and was even forced to withdraw from the U. S. Women’s Open last year. Wie said it was hard to maintain confidence through it all, but when times get tough she heeds the advice of her best friends and family members and just smiles.

This year Wie is relaxing a little and remembering what initially streamlined her success, an easygoing approach.

“It’s been a really fun tournament [week] so far so hopefully the next couple of days will be even better,” she said. “I feel like if I left the week feeling that I tried my hardest, knowing that I played without pain, that I had a lot of fun playing and obviously winning the tournament would be really great, but all I can do is try my hardest.”

Much like how Wie approaches the green, Yani Tseng is also trying to master the art of smiling all the way to the tee. Tseng defeated Maria Hjorth of Sweden on June 8 in a playoff at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.

“It’s all very overwhelming,” Tseng said, as she prepares herself to match up against the likes of Wie, defending champion Lorena Ochoa, and the renowned Sorenstam.

Competition aside, Tseng said she is not willing to give up her youth for the game.

“I’m still a teenager,” said Tseng,

  1. “I need to do something a lot of fun.”

Ochoa, who has more than twice as many points (964.01 to 470.46) as the second-place Sorenstam in the Rolex World Rankings, will be the player to beat this week.

After a four-year absence from the Wegmans LPGA, Sorenstam is making just her fifth appearance in Pittsford in the last 15 years. This is her last appearance here, as Sorenstam has announced her retirement after this season.

Play for the Wegmans LPGA begins Thursday at 7:15 a. m. Wie, Ochoa, Sorenstam and Tseng all have early morning tee times.


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