Michelle Wie waved from the Swilcan Bridge during a practice round yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Wie wary of St. Andrews layout
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland » Natalie Gulbis arrived at the home of golf buoyed by a long overdue first victory. Hawaii's Michelle Wie may have to wait a little longer for hers after taking a look at the Old Course.
The Women's British Open will be held at St. Andrews this week for the first time, and Wie will have to contend with an injured left wrist, a slump and a challenging layout.
"My goal is just to stay out of the pot bunkers," the 17-year-old Wie said yesterday. "I never realized that almost every tee shot on the front nine is a blind tee shot. You keep on having to play to different fairways. I've been doing that by accident."
Wie tied for 69th at last week's Evian Masters in France and withdrew from the Ginn Tribute event in May when she was on the way to shooting 90. Her ranking has dropped so low that she needed a sponsor's invitation to take part in the Women's British Open, a situation not helped by her injury.
"I underestimated just how badly I injured my wrist," she said. "I feel like I just have to build up until it gets really normal."
Wie described her run of poor results in 2007 as a "bump" in her career.
"Until this year, if you look at the tournaments I've played at, I've had fun, and every single tournament I've played exactly how I wanted to," she said. "I wish I could have won, but that problem is a good problem to have. Every single time I went out there, everything seemed really easy. My life was going exactly how I planned it, I was on a very fast track and then I hit my first bump.
"I feel like it's going to make me a stronger player after I get through this."
Natalie Gulbis earned her first LPGA victory last week. CLICK FOR LARGE
While Wie's form is in disarray, Gulbis is rapidly improving at a time when the women's game has broken through to golf's birthplace. She is a leading contender for the fourth and final major of the LPGA season.
Although St. Andrews has previously staged a women's British Amateur Championship, only the women pros will be allowed full access to the exclusively male Royal & Ancient Club clubhouse this week. By Monday, the winner will be allowed in only on invitation by the male members.
After her long-awaited victory at the Evian Masters, Gulbis hopes it will be her.
"It's been on the schedule for a couple of years now and we're really excited about coming over here and having an LPGA event and a major here at St. Andrews," she said. "The players have been excited all year. This is one of those golf courses where you're not sure you're going to get the opportunity to play."
Gulbis said she enjoyed seeing for herself all the sights she had caught only on television.
"Being in all the spots where I've seen players on TV, I went into the bunker today where David Duval was on 17," she said, referring to the time Duval needed four shots to get out of the pot bunker adjacent to the Road Hole green, took an 8 and finished 14th in the 2000 men's British Open.
"And I walked across the (Swilcan) bridge and remember hearing different stories and different moments from the events. So it's really special."
Wie joined the chorus of admiration for St. Andrews.
"It is the greatest honor being able to play here," she said. "Just watching it on TV and actually playing it is completely different. It's the most interesting golf course I've ever played."