Q&A: Michelle Wie

2014 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Michelle Wie is having a breakout season on the LPGA Tour

It’s hard to imagine a time when Michelle Wie was not in the media spotlight, beginning with her appearance at the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship as a 10-year old in 2000. Now, after recently turning 25, Wie is still making headlines because of her breakout season with 12 top-10 finishes and two victories, including the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Currently in fourth place in the Race to the CME Globe, the season-long points competition currently led by American Stacy Lewis, Wie is once again a factor on tournament leaderboards after returning from a nagging hand injury that kept her away from competition during the months of August and September.  We caught up Wie, who graduated from Stanford in 2012 with a degree in Communications, for an exclusive interview with California Golf + Travel and asked about her recent great play and the resurgence of the Americans on the LPGA Tour.

First of all, happy birthday and congratulations on such a great year. Are you getting used to being introduced as the current U.S. Women’s Open champion?

Thank you. Being introduced as a major champion will never get old and I appreciate it every time I hear it.

One of the great stories about your victory at Pinehurst, the week after the men’s U.S. Open also held at No. 2 there, was that some of the PGA members shared their yardage books with you, specifically Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley. We don’t hear that much about the camaraderie from the PGA and LPGA, is it pretty prevalent?

So many PGA and LPGA players live around Jupiter, and I’ve been lucky to find a good group of friends to practice and hang out with. I think it’s really beneficial practicing with some of the guys. I like the pressure and adrenaline that comes with trying to beat them and take their money.

Everyone is chasing Stacy Lewis for the title. What do you feel is the strongest part of her game?

I have said it before and I’ll continue to say it: Stacy Lewis is just so consistent. At the RICOH Women’s British Open this year, I jokingly called her annoyingly consistent, but it’s true. She’s always near the top of the leaderboard and even if she finishes second or third, she’s not happy. She wants to win no matter what. She’s become a good friend to me and she’s someone who really pushes me to be better. Honestly, I think the best part of her game is her motivation to be the best. I really admire that.

You’ve been pretty open about how your college experience helped your game. You might be the only professional golfer who benefitted from school by not playing golf.  Why do you think it helped you so much?

I have always felt that going to college was an important part of my life. It really helped me grow up. That’s the beauty of college – you don’t have anyone telling you what to do. You do it for yourself.  I learned to better manage my time and how to create balance in my life.

Was Stanford your first choice and what was it about that campus that made a difference?

Stanford was definitely my first choice. In fact, attending Stanford was one of my goals growing up. My grandfather was a visiting professor there and my aunt and uncle both earned their degrees there as well. Being able to get my degree there will forever be one of my best achievements.

You made a significant improvement in your putting, but we all know that putting can be streaky. Do you think since you have such a non-conventional putting approach that you would switch (techniques) more quickly if you started to putt poorly?

I am committed to my current putting style and it’s been working really well for more than a year now. I think consistency is important even when things aren’t going well. As I’ve gotten older, I think I have a better perspective on changing things in my game. At this point, I expect to stay with the “tabletop” method for a long time.

One of your keys to your success this year has been allowing yourself to not be so perfect, especially off the tee. Can you go into where that came from?

Well, I know that I’m not always the most accurate off the tee, but I also have a pretty good idea of what I can do with the golf ball. It’s really about course management. I’m really comfortable hitting the stinger 3-wood off the tee now and I can control it well. That shot helped me win the U.S. Open.

You’ve been in the media forever and, as much as anyone, know the ups and down of being a public personality. Are you wary of the media at all, and, if so, how do you handle it?

I have definitely had a lot of critics throughout my career, but I appreciate the media. I took a lot of Communications classes at Stanford and I’ve been on the LPGA’s Communications Committee for a couple years trying to help tell the LPGA story. Even now, the media is helping me to show my personality – my love of painting and fashion and cooking – which helps to grow my fan base.

With success comes even more pressure to perform. Are you prepared for those expectations again, and are you more prepared to handle them?

My career didn’t end because I won the U.S. Open. There is still so much more I want to do and I want the expectations. I have had a lot of ups and downs in my career and I think I am equipped to deal with whatever comes next.

We’re a year away from the 2015 Solheim Cup in Germany. How is the American team shaping up and are you guys already talking about it?

We are definitely talking about it. We want to get the Cup back, but it doesn’t do us any good to say it. We just have to go do it. I promise you we are all excited and ready for Germany next year.

The Americans have made quite a statement this year in women’s golf. Can you pinpoint any reason for that shift?

I don’t know that there is one reason. We are all going out every week and trying to win. I think it just shows that the American players are more than capable. We need to keep winning to give American junior golfers some role models to chase after!

You’ve worked very hard with your coach David Leadbetter on your swing. Is there one area that you still struggle with on the course?

No, I wouldn’t say there is a real area of struggle, but I’m always working on every part of my game. In recent years, I’ve learned to really trust myself on the golf course. And I’ve also developed the mentality that one mistake will not be the end of the world. David has been an incredible source of help and advice with my golf swing and also with my approach to the game.

You’ve had a great relationship with Nike and you’ve seen the quality of Nike equipment improve over the past few years.  How has their equipment and your relationship with Nike impacted your game?

Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of Nike. I’m so proud to play Nike equipment. I’m also a huge fan of the clothing styles they have developed. They are always so open to feedback and they do everything they can to help me play my best.

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