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Fingers Crossed For Wie

Michelle Wie will have her fingers crossed at the start of this week’s Honda LPGA in Thailand, the event immediately preceding the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa. The precaution is all about how she reacts to what will be her first competitive outing since that operation on her right hand last October.

 

Wie’s diagnosis was that the hand was “completely jacked”, while the medical men spoke in rather more exacting terms of “a small avulsion fracture, bone spurring and nerve entrapment”. Having come back too soon from some of her past injuries, of which she has had plenty, the now 29-year-old Wie will tell you that she has followed instructions to the letter on this occasion. In golfing parlance, she has taken things “a shot at a time” in her bid to be fully fit to defend her Champions’ title.

 

It was at the turn of the year that she had the go-ahead to switch from practising short putts to long and, as you would imagine, she was soon trying her hand at the kind of 35-footer which she hammered home across the 18th green to seal her Singaporean victory of twelve months ago. After the putts came the chips and now, as she prepares to tee up in Thailand, she is ready to do something of everything, even if her primary concern is one of playing pain-free.

It was the late Ken Adwick who, when his 83-year-old father returned a headline-making 78 in the Seniors’ championship at Longniddry one year, explained that the old man’s idea of a good practice was “to sit and think”. Ernie Els was another to opt for the “sit and think” routine after a sailing accident in the wake of the 2005 Open championship. What he learned, above all else, was just how much he loved what he did for a living. Wie, for her part, says that whenever she comes back from a break of any kind, she feels a surge of excitement which those who play week-in, week-out will never know. (Injuries apart, Wie spent six years dividing her time between golf and her studies at Stanford.)

 

Michelle’s mother, Bo, will no doubt by now have moved on from worrying about the still-improving hand to what might happen next to her injury-prone daughter.  Last year, she would have had a minor shock to her system when her offspring appeared with pink stripes in her hair. But, as luck would have it, that flash of fashion soon paled into insignificance as against some still more colourful goings-on out on the course. Having been five shots back at the start of the final day, Wie romped up the leaderboard and intruded on the constellation of stars – Jenny Shin, Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang and Brooke Henderson – at the top.

 

Only at the end did she break free of that quartet by holing the 35-footer which has had people talking ever since. It may have been less than half the distance of the never-to-be-forgotten 75-footer which Paula Creamer slotted to win the title in 2014, but the drama was in the same league. Michelle’s putt fairly slammed into the hole while the crowd leapt from their seats as the winner – it was her first since her US Open title of 2014 –  punched the air and jumped for joy.

 

The noise was amazing and, assuredly, did nothing to still the nerves of Korda, Shin and Kang, all of whom had still to play the 18th. Korda, whose sister, Jessica, had won the previous week, came closest to keeping the tournament alive when she left herself with a six-footer to force a play-off. Alas, her ball refused to drop and she had to wait until October – the same month as Wie was having her hand op – to notch her first win on the LPGA.

 

Wie is itching to get back to Singapore, and not least because it reminds her of Hawaii where she was brought up. “So much is so similar,” is what she said on one of her earlier visits.

 

Not at the moment it isn’t. At least at the time of writing, the palm trees in Hawaii were cloaked in snow.