The name Michelle Wie still warrants top billing at an LPGA event, and she is recognizable enough play in a glamorous threesome with LPGA stars Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson.
But Thursday in the opening round of the Kingsmill Championship, her pairing was unfortunate as it exposed her schizophrenic game. In shooting a 4-over-par 75, Wie finished 10 strokes behind Creamer and eight back of Thompson. She hit only 3 of 14 fairways and took 34 putts.
There was a brief flash of the old Wie as she blasted towering power-fades at No. 15 and No. 16, finishing on both holes 60 yards further down the fairway than Creamer and 25 yards past Thompson, who is currently ranked No. 1 on the LPGA in driving distance.
After Creamer laid up at No. 15, a 475-yard par 5, Wie hit an iron to the green, chipped it close and made the putt for a show-of-force birdie 4.
After missing a birdie putt at No. 16, Wie made a 10-footer for biride at No. 17. But on No. 18, she snap-hooked her drive into a lake and needed to make a significant putt to save bogey.
It’s been this way for the 22-year-old this year. In between missed cuts in two of her last three tournaments, Wie placed eighth at the Safeway Classic, her only finish this year in the top 30. She’ll need a serious rally on Friday to make the cut for only the eighth time this year in 15 events.
Some say Wie was overhyped. But at the tender ages of 15 and 16, there was a stretch of six majors in which she finished in the top 5 five times, a feat never approached by any LPGA teenager. The hype was justified.
But now at age 22, how can she be so far off the tracks?
A hint to that question could be found along the fairways of the River Course. Parents Bo and B.J., never walking together, watched their daughter just as intently as when she was a 12-year-old prodigy, dad with his ever-present backpack and video camera, mom with her usual visor and fanny pack.
Makes you wonder how much fun Michelle Wie is having playing golf these days.