Michelle Wie on dealing with criticism and seeing the glass as ‘5 percent full’

July 5, 2012

Former child phenom Michelle Wie has missed six cuts in eight starts in the 2012 season. Now 22 years old, she has only two LPGA victories, the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the 2010 CN Canadian Women's Open, and heading into this week's U.S. Women's Open, she is still looking for her first major championship.

She also enrolled at Stanford University in September 2007, and split her time as a college student and a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour. Last month she graduated from Stanford with a degree in communications. She has a life outside of golf and "normal" friends. She loves to bake — and eat. She travels with her dog, Lola. She's bubbly and not afraid to laugh at herself. Underachiever? Depends on your perspective, and that's something Wie definitely has.

Congratulations on your degree. Where does graduating from Stanford rank among your list of achievements?
It's pretty much right up there at the top. When I was growing up, graduating from Stanford was one of my biggest goals. So being able to accomplish that was one of the most important things for me. When I walked [at commencement] and saw my parents, I've never seen them so proud of me and that includes winning both in Canada and Mexico, along with everything else. That was really cool.

How hard has it been to make the transition away from being a college student?
It is difficult, but I don't think it's hit me yet. I think it will in September when I'm not packing up to go back again. Right now I just feel like we're on vacation, but it is nice. Just because I have more personal time. I still see my friends. We travel and meet up for trips.

What makes it difficult?
It's just sad that we're all not in the same bubble and community anymore. I think I'm having a little bit of an easier time because all my friends graduated the year before, so they've all been in the real world and working jobs for a full year now. So it makes me want to join them and be a big girl, like them [Laughing].

Will you miss having an "escape" from golf?
I think having a balance in my life has always been very important to me, even when I was younger. I have a lot of hobbies. Now that I've moved to Jupiter, Fla., I spend a lot of time in the water and there are other activities away from golf that I like to do. It's nice now that I don't have to rush to fit everything in. Let's say, I want to bake. Well, I don't have to bake 30 cupcakes by a certain time because I have to be somewhere else at 4 p.m. or whenever. There's no deadline. If I want to do it, I do it, and if I don't, I can rest or I can practice more. It's very flexible, which I really like.

How did you celebrate your graduation?
I had to fly to Canada right after commencement [to play in the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic], so no, I didn't. It hasn't really hit me that hard yet, I guess. I didn't have plans, but now that you mention it…

Critics have questioned your decision to attend Stanford, which, personally, I find a little strange. What's your reaction been to the naysayers?
It's frustrating. When you hear negative things that people say about you whether you're in the spotlight or not, it hurts. I try not to really pay attention to it because going to college was a very personal choice for me. Whether it creates public criticism or not, it's my life. If I hadn't graduated, it was going to be something I regretted for the rest of my life, and I wasn't going to do that. I'm really happy that I went to Stanford. It just gets really frustrating because sometimes people criticize without getting their facts straight. You know how it is, people are going to talk, but it doesn't really bother me because I know what I'm doing makes me happy and I'm so grateful that I have such a great support team. If I were doing something wrong, they'd tell me hopefully. It's not like I make the best of choices all the time, but I'm human. I learn from my mistakes and I learn to be happy.

You started in the spotlight at a very young age, which is tough on a lot of kids, but you appear to have grown into a well-rounded young woman. What do you credit that to?
I credit that to my parents. My whole life wasn't just about golf. They wanted to make sure I was well-educated. I had a good childhood and I have normal friends. I was able to go out and have fun like a normal kid. I was really close to my parents, which made it a lot easier for me.

It must be very hurtful to hear the harsh criticisms that have been directed at your parents. How have you been able to deal with that? What's the real story behind your relationship with your parents?
Like I said before, that criticism happens mostly because people don't get their fact straight. We've always had a really good relationship. It hurts because you never want to hear anything bad said about anyone you love. Going to college really helped, too. There is that necessary step that people have to take when they go to college whether you're playing professional golf or not — your relationship with your parents changes as well. I know it did for me. We have a great relationship. But they like my dog more than me. Yep, it happened.

It's been a bit of a struggle for you on the golf course so far this season. You've missed six cuts in eight starts and your best finish is T33. How have you dealt with it and what's your frame of mind at the moment?
You can look at the glass half full or half empty or with my case this year, 5 percent full and 95 percent empty [Laughing]. I'm choosing to look at it 5 percent full. So with every round — as hard as it may be — I really try to make an effort to look at some of the good things I did that I can be proud of. I'm choosing to be positive because that's the one thing I do have control over. So I'm at the point where my game feels good, I'm just one step away from it being really good.

What is that "one step"?
I think that all year, when my ballstriking felt good, my putting felt bad, and when my putting felt good, my ballstriking felt bad. It just hasn't come together at the same time, so I'm trying to get everything to work together.

Is there anything specific you're working on?
David Leadbetter is trying to get me to think less about mechanics and free myself up a bit and just hit it like when I was 14 again. I have a tendency to overthink because I want to be too perfect all the time. Other than that, I'm just biding my time. All I can do at this point is to keep grinding and working hard. I'm just doing my best to be patient and waiting for everything to come together and click — it has to eventually, right [Laughing]? Of course I know that's all easier said than done, but I think I'm handling it remarkably well. I'll be honest — I'm a competitor and I'm devastated right after a poor round, but I step back and I'll let myself cool off. I've been able to get right back into a good frame of mind. Like I said, it's hard, but that's the only thing I have full control over.

You switched from the belly putter back to the conventional one a few months ago. What prompted that?
It has to be so long that it got kind of heavy and I think I lost some of my feel. I still like to practice with it and I'll go back-and-forth, but I have more feel with the short one. About a month ago, I started putting with my left-hand low.

You've struggled on the greens, and I'm sure you're constantly asked about it, but what do you think the missing link is with your putting?
I've been talking a lot with Meg Mallon about it. She says, “This is how you have to look at it — you just have to look at yourself and say you're a good putter.” As goofy as that may sound, it really is true. Putting is all confidence. You've got to tell yourself you're a good putter and believe it. Every time someone asks me, “What's wrong with your putting?” I think you can kind of take it like, well, what is wrong with my putting? It's hard to not think about that, but I need to stop thinking about it that way. I know I'm a good putter. I've putted really well before and I can do it again. My stroke is feeling really good. Last couple of weeks I just felt like nothing went in. So, it needs to go in! [Laughter.]

Talk about the U.S. Women's Open and the host course, Blackwolf Run.
Oh, it's a wonderful golf course. It's a hard one. You get to the par 3s and you're like, “Oh my gosh, this is hard!” But it's a good course, there are some good birdie holes, there are some really tough ones. It's a good mixture of holes. Not one hole looks the same, which I think is great. The greens are really tough. You have to hit it in the right spots, like every U.S. Open course setup. We'll see how they set it up, but I'm really excited.

How do you think it sets up for your game?
It's a long golf course and it depends on which tee box they use. It seems like they have the option of five tee boxes, but obviously my length will come into play and I'll definitely play to my advantage this week.

I hear you have some food allergies. What are you allergic to exactly?
My friends take pictures of things I can't eat because of my allergies. We joke about starting a Twitter account called “Stuff Michelle can't eat” — which is everything, basically. More specifically, I'm allergic to dairy, but I suffer through it for my daily dose of fro-yo.

Tell us about an embarrassing quirk or habit you might have that people probably don't know about you.
I have no sense of direction. At the ShopRite Classic there's an awesome sushi place called "Mt. Fuji." My player-manager Jeehae Lee picked me up to meet up with Tina [Christina Kim] and some other girls. I was giving Jeehae directions from my phone map. About 15 minutes into our drive on the Garden State Parkway, Jeehae said, “Where are we going? I thought this place was close!” I looked at my phone again and I was confused — why does it say it takes 27 days and 9 hours to get there? Turns out I was directing us to the real Mt. Fuji. So that was a little embarrassing, but more funny than anything.