Ailing Wie defends U.S. Women’s Open title

Michelle Wie, who has struggled with injuries and illness this season, will defend her title in the 70th U.S. Women’s Open beginning on Thursday at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pa.’

Wie, who claimed her first major title last year at Pinehurst No. 2, has made a swing change with the help of instructor David Leadbetter to limit the problems that have developed because of a left hip injury.

“I think the results really haven’t been showing, but every week, it’s been feeling more and more comfortable,” said the Stanford grad, who has finished no higher than a tie for 11th in 14 LPGA Tour events this season. “Every time you do a big overhaul of anything, it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it does, but most of the time it takes time to change your swing.

“I feel like every day I’m getting more comfortable with the swing changes. Just with everything in general, I’m feeling healthier and healthier. My hip felt better in Arkansas (two weeks ago when she missed the cut) than it has the past couple of weeks. And I think I’m taking it day by day and taking it slowly.”

Doctors informed Wie that she would completely tear the muscles in the hip unless she stopped swinging so violently, so she is trying to adjust to a new swing that puts less stress on the joint.

The 25-year-old Wie has slid to No. 17 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

Inbee Park of South Korea, who regained the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a six-stroke victory in the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship last month, is the betting favorite at 6-1.

No. 2 Lydia Ko, 18, of New Zealand, seeking her first major title, is next at 10-1 and No. 3 Stacy Lewis, who has two major titles but has not won the U.S. Women’s Open, is at 11-1.

“I think as a golfer you want to do good in major championships, and obviously that’s the tournament (where) you put 100 percent of your energy and strategy and everything,” said Park, who has six major victories.

“So I definitely really do care about the major championships. When I come to major championships, I work extra hard and I try to look at the course a little bit better.”

Lewis, coming off a tie for third in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in her last event, posted her best finish in the U.S. Women’s Open last year when she finished solo second by closing with a 66 to wind up two strokes behind Park.

Her only other top-10 finish in this tournament was a tie for third in 2008, when she wound up five shots behind Park at Interlachen in Minnesota. Lewis started the final round with a one-stroke lead that year, but closed with a 78.

“I like when the golf course is playing its hardest, and that’s what we get at majors,” said Lewis, who captured the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship and the 2013 Women’s British Open. “It tests every aspect of your game. You can’t just putt it well and get through the week or hit it well and get through the week, you’ve got to do everything well.

“I like the big stage. I like when we’ve got all the attention and we’ve got big crowds. I think I just embrace the challenge of majors and I think you play better when you do that.”

Ko has won seven times on the LPGA Tour, but her best finish in the majors came when she finished two strokes behind Suzann Pettersen of Norway in solo second as low amateur in the 2012 British Women’s Open, and she also tied for third in the 2013 in the LPGA Championship.

Her best result in the Women’s U.S. Open was a tie for 15th last year at Pinehurst No. 2.

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