PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Michelle Wie handed over her cell phone as she walked to the eighth tee box. Caddie Matthew Galloway dutifully crouched down and snapped a photo of his statuesque boss against the bright blue Bahamian waters.
Even a native-born Hawaiian had to appreciate the view.
The Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic marks the start to Wie’s 10th full season as an LPGA member. Wie has a way of keeping us all living in hope.
“You think any moment she could take off,” said instructor David Leadbetter.
It’s been 14 years since Wie turned the heads of PGA Tour pros at the Sony Open. Thirteen years since she turned professional and four years she since won the U.S. Women’s Open, her most recent title.
Wie arrived on Paradise Island Tuesday morning and felt so stoked to be back at it that she played an 18-hole practice round. The 28-year-old seemed giddy as she walked the windswept Ocean Club alongside American Beth Allen. Wie is staying at the playground known as Atlantis Resort but did not pack a bathing suit.
She’s focused, and her goal this year is an obvious one: Be healthy enough to go hard as much as she wants.
“I’m always holding back,” said Wie of her injury-plagued career. Instructor David Leadbetter refers to her as a “walking cadaver.”
In 2017, Wie was sidelined for six weeks after an emergency appendectomy. She also withdrew from the U.S. Women’s Open with a neck injury after a string of top-4 finishes.
Over the offseason, Wie had several collagen-based injections to treat the arthritis that’s in both her wrists. She’ll return to her doctors in New York after the Bahamas for more treatment.
Wie plans to be “smart aggressive” this time around. She’ll skip the next stop in Australia, and then play in every event through the West Coast swing.
“I always get excited that I’m not hurting,” she said, “and then I hurt myself.”
During the offseason, Wie spent a week island-hopping with LPGA player Marina Alex and Jen Hong, who competed for five years on the Symetra Tour. Activities included an unguided 13-mile hike in search of lava and night snorkeling with manta rays. Wie, who is sporting short pink hair this week, also started a food instagram account @whatdowieeat.
For a player who first came into our lives more than 15 years ago, nothing about her seems stale.
When Wie got back to work in January, there was a lengthy email of suggested drills from Leadbetter waiting in her inbox. She referred to it as boot camp, saying it was less about technique and more about getting the ball in the hole.
“I think she has over-thought putting,” said Leadbetter, who wanted to place the emphasis back on feel. Too many times last year, he said, Wie failed to attack the hole.
The tornado drill, for example, involves placing balls down in a curve 1 foot apart from 3 feet to 8 feet. Wie can’t leave until she’s made them all.
“Probably the one she hates a lot,” he said.
Wie played a cut all last season but has incorporated a draw and straight shots back into her game in an effort to feel more in control. Leadbetter worked on softening her leg action to take stress off her hips and lower back.
In Galloway, Wie has found a smart, easygoing caddie who keeps it fun. Prior to coming down to the Bahamas, they squared off in a friendly skins game back in South Florida. Galloway played college golf at West Florida and spent time competing on the PGA Tour Canada and in Latin America.
“I was like sneaky grinding,” said Wie, who gave a little fist pump after she knocked in a 30-footer on the 17th hole to win eight skins.
She’s feelin’ it, folks. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year.