RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Michelle Wie played nine holes of practice Monday at Mission Hills and another nine Tuesday in preparation for the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship.
She’s looking to make her first start since withdrawing in pain in the first round of her title defense at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore almost five weeks ago. It will be just her third start in five months, since she underwent season-ending surgery last fall to repair an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment in her right hand.
So far, so good.
“It feels pretty good, knock on wood,” Wie told GolfChannel.com on her way to the range Tuesday after nine holes of practice. “I should say no comment on that because every time I say I’m feeling pretty good, something else happens.”
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Wie was accompanied Tuesday by Jonnie West, her fiancé. They announced their engagement three weeks ago. Jonnie, the son of NBA great Jerry West, is the director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors.
David Leadbetter, Wie’s swing coach, said Wie is so happy about her engagement, it may be medicinal.
“Love may be dulling the pain,” he said.
Wie was 10 over through 14 holes when she withdrew in her last start, that first round in Singapore. She said afterward that nerve entrapment was still an issue. She was committed to play the Kia Classic last week but withdrew three days before.
“The ANA is one my favorite, favorite tournaments, one of the most important of the year,” Wie said. “That weighed into what I decided last week. I just didn’t want what happened in Singapore to happen again, where I just kind of blew up. I just wasn’t as confident as I wanted to be.
“This is one of my favorite, favorite tournaments of the year. I’m feeling very happy that I’m here.”
Wie’s first major championship appearance was at the ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco. As a 13-year-old, she played her way into the final Sunday pairing before tying for ninth. At 14, she finished fourth here. At 16, she led late in the final round before faltering to a tie for third. She finished second in 2014.
“She obviously isn’t coming into this event with any form,” Leadbetter said. “She’s an unknown quantity, and she’s going to be rusty. That’s not ideal coming into a major, but this is a place she could probably play blindfolded. She loves this place, and that should help her. It’s just a magical place for her.”
Leadbetter said Wie should temper expectations this week, but Wie said that’s difficult to do.
“It’s hard,” Wie said. “It’s such a special tournament and winning it would mean the world to me.”