PARKER, Colo. — Michelle Wie hasn’t won a tournament in three years. She didn’t come close to earning a spot on the Solheim Cup. Being a captain’s pick for the second time on the last three American teams stood out even more this year because one of the players left out won on the LPGA Tour this year.
Wie added her own touch to the U.S. uniform of a khaki skirt, red shirt and a blue cap. She showed up on the practice range with knee-high socks of red-and-white stripes capped off by a thick blue stripe with white stars.
“It’s a bit patriotic,” Wie said Wednesday. “I just kind of accumulate things over the year. I see things and I’m like, ‘Oh, that would be great for Solheim Cup.’ And I just brought them out.”
It’s far more important that she bring out her very best game as the Americans try to stay perfect on home soil and win back the Solheim Cup from Europe.
U.S. captain Meg Mallon met with Wie at St. Andrews after the Women’s British Open to tell her she was on the team. The next thing she told Wie — after the 23-year-old from Hawaii stopped crying — was to not think of herself as a wild-card selection, but one of 12.
It does hurt when I hear things. But if I don’t have something nice to say, I’m not going to say it. That’s how I work
“It’s tough being a captain’s pick,” Mallon said. “There’s a lot of pressure that players put on themselves being a pick.”
Then again, that’s a big reason why she took Wie.
Few other golfers have received so much attention for winning so little. Wie first was recognized in golfing circles when she was a 12 and blasted 270-yard tee shots during a Pro-Junior event at the Sony Open alongside PGA Tour players. Scrutiny followed a short time later, and it has been relentless.
Some of it was grounded in jealously. Without having won a tournament, Wie still attracted the largest galleries and the richest endorsement contracts. Some of it was grounded in reality. Wie spent her teen years trying to play against the men — PGA Tour events, even U.S. Open qualifying — without ever showing she could beat the women.
If there is additional pressure as a captain’s pick, who better to handle it?
“She lives on this stage almost every day that she plays,” Mallon said. “So walking into this environment is not going to affect her. I needed another player like that on the team. I had three rookies already. And like I said earlier, do I want five to six birdies a day at home sitting on the couch? So for me, that was a pretty easy decision.”
The hard part falls to Wie.
She has a 4-3-1 record in two appearances, including a 3-0-1 mark in her debut in 2009 outside Chicago when she also was a captain’s pick. Wie went 1-3 two years ago in Ireland, losing to Suzann Pettersen in singles on the 18th hole in a European victory.
There is reason for skepticism when Mallon says she didn’t want to leave “five or six birdies” at home on the couch. Wie has never been a great putter, and it has been several years since she was considered among the longest hitters.
Now, her putting is noticed for the peculiar stance. She struggled so badly late last year that she tried stooping her 6-foot frame so that her back is perpendicular to the ground and her eyes are directly above the ball. It looks funny. It looks painful. But it works.
“I always felt a little bit uncomfortable being tall putting,” Wie said. “And I was just like, ‘OK, I’ll go down lower to the ground. And I made every single putt coming in. And then I went to Dubai and I did the same thing there. I putted a lot better.”
As for the stance?
“A lot of people have asked me how my back is, if my back hurts,” she said. “But it actually feels a lot better doing that for me. Because I’m flexible, it’s easier.”
Mallon is more interested in numbers than appearance.
She said Wie has gone from 147th in putting a year ago to 37th this year. Mallon also said Colorado Golf Club is more of a second-shot course. Wie has been wild off the tee, but the fairways here are exceptionally wide.
“Her trouble has nothing to do with approach shots, and her short game is one of the best we have on our tour,” Mallon said. “This golf course, players will need lot of creativity. So I knew this was a very good fit for her.”
The pick smacked of yet another dose of entitlement for Wie, even suggestions that she was chosen solely for television ratings. Remember, this is the kid who was given an exemption to the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 14, and who was the first amateur to play in the LPGA Championship as a teen.
Wie, who graduated last year from Stanford with a degree in communications, quit reading long ago. And despite facing criticism at such a young age, she has shown remarkable maturity in not fighting back. The high road comes naturally.
“It’s just the way my parents raised me,” she said. “My mom always said — and I know it’s a cliche — ‘If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing.’ Everyone has their reasons for saying things and everyone is entitled to it. I always try to think the best of everyone. It does hurt when I hear things. But if I don’t have something nice to say, I’m not going to say it. That’s how I work.”