I had a front-row seat for Michelle Wie’s 2008 LPGA debut at the Fields Open, and what I saw was both encouraging and disconcerting.
She looked healthy, smiled freely, wore no wrist wraps (a constant in ’07) and seemed as happy as I have ever seen her. She walked tall and talked about the fun of college life in a coed dorm at Stanford.
The downside was a swing that has lost its tempo and direction. She looks as if she can’t wait to get it over with. The swing is fast, with limited shoulder turn and a violent down-cock, and it has left her with no predictable shot pattern or a go-to shot. She has become overwhelmed with mechanics and a perceived need for additional length, getting input from not only teacher David Leadbetter but also her dad, B.J.
The big, flowing, athletic swing Michelle had as a 13-, 14- and 15-year-old world-beater is sadly a thing of the past. It could be resurrected, but only if she takes control of it herself. She should close off all of the outside voices, watch old videos, noting the spontaneous, reactive way she approached the game, then take that attitude to the range and course — solo! Work backward to when golf was fun and when the thought process and the swing were uncomplicated.
In 2007 the LPGA made big improvements in the pace of play, and those gains have accelerated this year. The tour now mandates that groups not only maintain their pace in accordance with a predetermined “time par” for their round but also preserve the time between groups, typically 10 to 11 minutes. Individuals may be singled out and timed without warning.
At the SBS Open, Angela Park was in contention when her group fell out of position in the final round. Timed and found to be in violation on three straight shots on the 10th hole, she was assessed a two-shot penalty. She ended up losing by three, and the lagging cost her more than $50,000. Ouch!
By contrast, at the Fields Open, Friday’s final threesome took only four hours and 28 minutes, easily a one-hour improvement over many Fridays last year.
Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran, welcomes letters at [email protected].