JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle Wie faces many obstacles this week as she pursues the Fields Open title, including five of the world's top-10 players.
Wie back home for Fields Open
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Back for the first time since graduating from Punahou School last May, Michelle Wie hopes the good memories of the 50th state provide a pathway for her return to greatness at this week's $1.3 million Fields Open at Ko Olina.
Tomorrow through Saturday, Ko Olina Resort; Purse: $1.3 million, TV: Golf Channel; Defending champion: Stacy Prammanasudh
But don't bet the clubhouse on it.
Even if Wie did suddenly play as well as she did here two years ago, it's doubtful her game is in the same shape as the other pros teeing it up for tomorrow's second full-field event on the LPGA Tour.
"The moment I landed here, all of the reasons I love home came back," Wie said. "A lot of my friends and family friends are going to come out and (watch me) play. It's a really special experience to play in front of them where a lot of the gallery, you know them personally."
Local knowledge of the course will also come in to play as Wie faces five of the top 10-ranked players in the world and seven of 2007's top-10 LPGA money-winners. Defending champion Stacy Prammanasudh heads the field of 138 golfers that also includes Annika Sorenstam, Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and South Korean legend Se Ri Pak.
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JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle Wie tries to regain her form after a forgettable 2007. She tees off today in the Fields Open.
If she could, Michelle Wie would join the ranks of Mr. Peabody, Marty McFly and Uncle Rico.
Alas, time machines only work in cartoons and movies. Sometimes not even then.
Last year was one to forget for Wie, who graduated from Punahou and into the school of hard knocks with injuries derailing her promising golf career.
The former prodigy, now 18, missed the cut or withdrew from seven of the nine events she entered in 2007.
Wie said yesterday her right wrist, broken last year, is "never going to be 100 percent ever again after such a major injury."
She's trying to put that behind her. But when pressed yesterday, admitted it might have been better to rest the wrists (the left one was also injured).
"Obviously if someone invented a time machine, I would probably go back and change a couple of things," Wie said.
Sorry, not a De Lorean in sight.
She didn't want to talk about 2007 yesterday. Who could blame her?
But the Stanford freshman sounded optimistic two days before playing in her home state for the first time since last year's Sony Open. Tomorrow she tees off at the Fields Open in Hawaii at the Ko Olina Resort.
She's in the first group, at 7:15 a.m. off the 10th tee with Erica Blasberg and Carolina Llano. Fellow local girl Ayaka Kaneko tees off at 1:35 p.m. on No. 1.
If Wie's injuries had played havoc with only her golf game it would have been bad enough. But they also led to a situation where her integrity was questioned by Annika Sorenstam, winner of last week's SBS Open.
Last June, Wie was 14-over-par with two holes left in the first round of the Ginn Tribute in South Carolina. She withdrew, citing the injured wrists. Wie was in danger of shooting 88 or higher for the round, which would have barred her from playing in any more LPGA events the rest of the season.
The withdrawal drew more scrutiny -- including from Sorenstam, hostess of the Ginn -- when Wie began practicing again shortly thereafter.
"If it were up to me, she wouldn't have even played in the Ginn," said Wie's swing coach, David Leadbetter.
Wie said she has dealt with the wrists and is working toward regaining the confidence and driving power that made her a contender in every LPGA event she entered (although she has not won one) before last year.
"I accepted that fact and it's as good as it can be right now," she said. "Obviously it's not 110 percent, but I feel pretty healthy. I feel a lot stronger. I feel I can get a lot more distance on the ball and I feel more like an athlete now."
Some of the good muscle memory is coming back, replacing the bad.
"It's a work-in-progress and I feel like I talk a lot about confidence," she said. "But it's not only that, you actually have to perform to gain confidence."
Leadbetter said Wie's accuracy off the tee isn't back to where it was prior to the wrist problems, but also said he doesn't have to "hold my breath, wondering where it's going to go" anymore.
"She's healthy. She's swinging a lot better," Leadbetter said. "She's stronger."
Perhaps psychologically as well as physically. Going to college has taught Wie that golf isn't everything.
"I really feel like it helps me not think about golf 24/7. It's a forced break," she said. "I feel like going to classes really helps. That sounds corny, but it stimulates my brain in other areas."
Those other areas this quarter are Japanese, writing, humanities and hip-hop dance. She'll take the spring quarter off to compete.
Her goal this week and this season? To contend, to regain her form. To live in the present -- one shot, one hole, one round and one tournament at a time.
"I think being up there again, being one of the names to be drawn to win, one of the players to win again, to be in contention," she said. "Just to feel that adrenaline rush and hopefully win a couple, that would be awesome."
That would be something for the only child to tell her 84 dorm mates about, including her roommate from Texas.
"I really look up to her because her major is physics, which I don't think I can ever be," Wie said. "So I'm just looking at everyone at Stanford, they are just so smart or they are number one at something that they did."
Maybe one of them can build her a time machine.