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In a rare interview, 20-year-old Michelle Wie reveals how she bounced back in 2009 to reclaim a future that looks brighter than ever

Michelle Wie, March 2010
Jeff Newton
"My wrist was broken, but I was determined not to let it break me."

Your toughest year was 2007. You broke your wrist. You withdrew from several events. You looked like you were miserable. Your coach David Leadbetter said, 'Michelle couldn't have cared less if she'd never played again.' True?
There were times when it would have been fine if I didn't play again. It hurt so much. [The wrist injury] was dragging on forever. I felt like I would never get better. I would feel that way, and the next day I would want to go at it again. There was no way I was ever going to give it up. I didn't want to go down this way. It was not the way I wanted this to end. I had goals. I'm not a person who gives up. So I fought through it. The low points were low. My wrist was broken, but I was determined not to let it break me.

What was the lowest low point?
I don't remember.

What do you mean?
I don't remember a lot from that time [nervous laugh]. I think I've blocked it out.

You mean you don't dwell on it, or you literally don't remember?
I literally do not remember a lot of things from that time.

You mean entire tournaments?
Just in general. I don't remember a lot of things.

Because it was so traumatic?
Yeah, it was a lot more traumatic for me than people think.

Why? When was it most traumatic?
I can't remember. I literally can't. I don't remember. It all blurs together. The year [2007] feels like it was a really short time.

You said something at a press conference at the 2007 U.S. Women's Open that was very revealing. Do you remember that tournament?
Not really.

It was at Pine Needles [in North Carolina].
I don't remember where it was played.

At a press conference before the first round, you were asked if playing with an injured wrist was a smart move. You said, 'Come on, this is the U.S. freaking Open.' You shot 82 and ended up withdrawing. But the fact that you played showed heart.
Oh yeah, I do remember that. I was determined not to miss the U.S. Open for anything. Now that I look at that, it doesn't make sense, because there are gonna be so many more U.S. Opens. But at that time, everything felt so important, and I did not want to miss any of it. It was the U.S. freaking Open.

That May, you withdrew from the Ginn Tribute under controversial circumstances. Annika Sorenstam, the event's host, said you showed a 'lack of respect and class.' Have you ever spoken with her about it?
No.

Did you ever feel a need to?
I actually don't remember. What happened?

You were in danger of posting an 88 in the first round, which would have made you ineligible to play LPGA events for the rest of the year. You withdrew after 16 holes, citing your wrist injury. Two days later, you were seen hitting balls. Critics wondered if you used your wrist as an excuse so that you wouldn't have to submit a score.
I have no comment about that because I really don't remember.

None of it?
I kinda do, but I don't want to say anything false. I don't need to rehash that. I don't want to say anything false because I don't remember.

To be clear, you haven't spoken with Annika since then?
I don't think so, no. I think we're over it. We're past that.

Playing PGA Tour events, LPGA events, going to school — looking back, did you have too much on your plate?
No, I don't think so. My life would be different if I hadn't fallen down. But life happens. Things explode. There are "what ifs," but I'm living my life, and I'm very content. I feel like I'm on the way back. I'm on the up-climb and will do everything I can to keep improving.

The last PGA Tour event you played was in 2008. Will you ever try to tee it up with the guys again?
I realized, OK, I'm not ready for it now — I'll focus on something else. Will I try again? I don't worry about future questions. When I was younger, I spent so much time talking about the future. I want to worry about now, what makes me happy now. Thinking too far in advance about things you can't control is pointless.

A hypothetical: A teenage girl comes to you for advice. She wants to conquer the world — to play the LPGA, the PGA Tour, the Masters. What do you tell her?
I would say, "Have a thick skin. There will be a backlash." Also, I see a lot of girls being home-schooled, not getting [a formal] education. That worries me. College is an important growing experience. People say I didn't have a normal life growing up, but I did. I went to a regular high school. My advice would be to find a balance. If you want to conquer the world, enjoy it.

Speaking of education, is it true that when you were in grade school your dad had you memorize pages in the dictionary?
[Laughs.] Yeah, that was fun. Every day on the way to school, I would rip out a page from the dictionary and had to learn every single word. I pulled my first all-nighter when I was in fourth grade.

What's your relationship like with your parents? The perception is that they're too controlling.
Our relationship is normal. We're very close, and I love having them around. They're so supportive. My dad and I bicker. We're too similar. We clash. Obviously, they drive me up the wall, like any parents would. There will come a day when it's just me, my manager, and my caddie. But it's not time for me right now to go out on my own. It's a brutal, tough world, and I feel fortunate that I have two people who will love me no matter what. So I'll keep them around for a while.

OK, miscellaneous questions. What wakes you up in the middle of the night — not counting term papers?
Bad dreams. I watch horror movies at night. I've been having these dreams where people are killing me. A serial killer is after me, a different person every night. I have bizarre dreams. I have golf dreams. I'm late for my tee time, but someone's stopping me. Or, here's a good one: I'm chipping onto a green, but the green's made of glass. I hit it, it rolls over. Hit it again, rolls over. I chip it soft, it comes back. It's pretty annoying.

What's your biggest pet peeve?
When I'm eating and people shove their camera phones in my face and take a picture. Or when they act like they're saying hi — "Michelle, hi!" — and I turn, and they snap a picture. I'm like, "You weren't saying hi. It was a trick!" I have this surprised expression. Just ask. I'm human.

Do you ever think, I have millions. Why bother studying?
There are times when I'm, like, "Really? I have to do this?" But I won't half-ass it. My worst nightmare is that people say, "She can play golf, but does she have brains?" I want to do well.

What's the biggest myth about Michelle Wie?
People think I'm controlling, cold.

Tell them something they don't know about you.
I love spray-painting.

You mean subway cars? You can get in trouble for that.
[Laughs.] I wish. No, I love spray-painting cardboard boxes. I love art, artistic endeavors.

You like art. You're great at golf. What are you terrible at?
Karaoke. I'm so bad. I sang "Dancing Queen" once. It's a high-pitched song, and it was me screeching. I love '90s pop: Britney, 'N Sync.

One more quote from your past: When you were 14, you said, 'Being famous is pretty cool. Like I went to this restaurant, and they gave me free dessert.' Is being famous still cool?
[Laughs.] My god, I sound so young. I still get free ice cream from time to time, and it's quite delicious. Being famous has its perks.

Do you ever wish you were someone else?
Sometimes. But it's hard to disguise — there aren't a lot of six-foot-tall Asians walking around out there.

 

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