Michelle Wie – what has gone wrong?

I like watching golf events. I watch a lot of golf on TV including the LPGA Tour. This morning I was watching a replay of Michelle Wie performing in the Samsung World Championships.

I first saw her in 2003, I think she was 13 years old and playing in a Nationwide Tour event. I couldn’t believe it. At the time I couldn’t imagine a 13 year old boy good enough to play with grown men, let alone a young girl (not trying to be sexist). Although she missed the cut, she played quite well, better than any junior girl I’d ever seen.

She progressed quickly, making it onto the LPGA Tour and performing well. Although she never won, she did have some near misses and gained plenty of respect with her great play.

This year is different. A Cinderella story turned nightmare. How can a superbly talented golfer go from such a high to so low in only a year or so?

To me the answer is easy…

Poor coaching. And maybe some poor management (a topic I’d rather not get into).

The coaching of Michelle Wie is nothing short of a disgrace. It shouldn’t be possible for this to happen. But it has and I think some heads should roll.

Michelle Wie should be living the dream life of a young golfer, winning events, pleasing the crowds and playing the kind of golf that would see millions of devoted fans watching her every move. What I saw this morning was like a freak show – replaying hooked drives and short approaches missing the target by miles! At 13 she was playing golf like a seasoned veteran. At 18, she is playing golf like a really good 13 year old amateur.

I don’t think it is her fault. I hate swing gurus that jump in and try and take over and ‘manage’ a player’s game. They try and justify their high income by making unnecessary adjustments and tinker for the sake of it. Michelle Wie became a great player (replace great with sensational or unbelievable etc) by just playing. At 13 she had no fear and didn’t think about how to play, she just played. The ideal mindset to do anything.

Too many lessons and too much thinking has destroyed her once natural game. The coaches are to blame. They couldn’t leave her alone and let her game develop naturally. Now she is struggling the usual remedy is to have more lessons and technical advice. This will only make matters worse. I fear if she is not left alone her current problems will only be compounded and maybe lose her once awesome game for good.

The remedy for Wie is to get away from the experts and start playing ‘her’ game again. She needs to hit her way out of the problem…probably playing some smaller events and working her way back up again. No good playing those big events with all of the spotlight…just not good for confidence or enthusiasm.

She should sack her coaches and anyone else giving her too much advice. Michelle Wie knows best, she was the one that got to the top in the first place! Her situation is not lost – her graceful and powerful game can be returned, but she needs to change her approach and make some tough decisions.

Update: It’s now August 2012 and nothing much has changed in nearly 5 years. Wie has had some ups and downs but I still feel she hasn’t gotten anywhere near her potential. I’d love the opportunity to coach her, to simplify her attitude and let her play. It may be too late and her priorities may have changed but I’m sure it’s possible for Michelle Wie to let loose on the golfing world once again.

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19 Comments

  • Jerold

    Reply Reply October 18, 2007

    Cameron

    There have been stories suggesting that Michelle Wie may have lost some interest in golf. Do you think this could be a factor to her declining form.

    Also, do you think that Tiger Woods is techinically minded or adopts a natural automated approach when it comes to his swing. When I watch Tiger play on television, to me, I have the impression that his swing is very techincal. I read an article that Tiger wanted to improve his swing by improving his swing plane. What do you think?

    Jerold.

  • admin

    Reply Reply October 18, 2007

    Hi Jerold,

    I think Michelle Wie has lost interest because she is playing poorly. If she was playing better she would be playing more events and appear more happy. There have also been some stories that she has been injured. I believe this to be some sort of excuse from her ‘team’. If the injury was really bad she wouldn’t be able to play at all. But each time she has a melt down or poor score the injury gets another mention. My opinion is if she is teeing it up she is ready to play…no excuses should be allowed.

    Tiger Woods is an interesting story. I personally believe he is the most natural and automated golfer playing today. He plays the same way all the time…from the first hole to the last.

    Golf magazines and others like to write stories about him to sell magazines etc. The swing plane thing has been around for a while…I really don’t think it matters that much. His swing will naturally change as he gets older…but I honestly don’t believe he is thinking about it while he plays.

    I also think that he gets interviewed so much that he has to make things up to help the interviewer. It wouldn’t make good reading if he said, “I just walk up to the ball and hit it!”. Much better to say, “I’ve been working on flatening my swing plane the last few weeks. It seems to be helping. I’m hitting the ball more consistently and longer”. I’m sure the second response sells more papers.

    Tiger is in the freak category because he can work on technical aspects away from the course but still play well in competition. This is rare. Many golfers go missing for weeks, months or even years when they try and change their golf swing.

    If you want to be like Tiger learn to play more naturally and instinctive. Let rip in your own unique way. This is what Tiger does so well. No human alive could pull off those incredible shots time after time with conscious control. It’s just not possible.

    Good golfing,

    Cameron Strachan

  • Joe Cool

    Reply Reply August 15, 2012

    She is now 22 years old and will be 23 on October 11th. Her game is disasterous and I doubt if she will be able to recover. Her first round score average is 75 during the 2012 year! These scores have immediately put her 6 to 10 strokes back of the leader the first day and she has never been able to recover. It seems that she is BURNED OUT and does not enjoy the game any longer. It really is a sad story for someone with great potential that was mishandled during her career. I can see her returning to Stanford in 2013 for her Master Degree, an environment where she in comfortable and happy.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 15, 2012

      Joe: All pretty sad really. I wrote this piece a while ago now and most of it still rings true.

  • Jim Roy

    Reply Reply October 20, 2012

    I think a lot of mistakes were made with her career. Starting with her father and putting her up against men before she had a chance to learn how to win. A young person’s mental state can be so fragile. Why not build her confidence first before throwing her against the wolves. I remember hearing Jack and Tiger respond on questions about her early on. They both said how important learning how to win was early on and they had reservations on the way she was being handled back then.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply October 20, 2012

      Jim: not sure why they were in such a hurry to get her to compete against the guys – she was only 13. It seems ridiculous if you ask me. Also agree, it would have been fine for her to learn to win against girls the same age. It’s all quite sad really…

      Thanks for posting.

  • Jim Roy

    Reply Reply February 16, 2013

    She would have to really want it, from the tweets and what I hear she enjoys just playing. Which is ok I guess but what a waste of what was once great talent.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply February 16, 2013

      Jim: To me, this is the only (or best) way she is going to get her game back. She has been totally destroyed by the “experts” who tried to turn her into a robot. Her advisers probably haven’t done a great job either – why she was playing with men at 13 years of age defies belief – just not a smart decision. There was really nothing to gain from it.

      If she can hang in there and keep playing for “fun” I think she’ll turn the corner – at some point her system might just say,

      “thank you! Finally! You’ve left me alone to do what I do best – I can now hit the ball for you”.

      When this happens we might see a new and improved version of MW. It might not happen because I think she’s almost past the point of no return – but really good talent is hard to kill – no matter how hard we try.

  • Joe Cool

    Reply Reply February 22, 2013

    Well, it is now 2013 and though Michelle mentioned that she worked more than ever with Leadbetter during the off season, her game has not improved at all. She missed the cut in Australia and if they had a cut line in Thailand, she will miss that one also. Her game is very inconsistent and she still has no idea where her drives are going to end up. Her putting, well we all know that sad story. When she turned pro, her father mentioned that Michelle will be doing other things when she is 25 years old. She will be 24 in October and 2014 may be her last year. She is not mentioned nor shown on GC, while her fans following her get smaller and smaller. She has become the forgotten golf phenom in 2013.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply February 23, 2013

      It is sad – she hasn’t any flow and looks like she get bombarded with more information the worse she plays. It’s a wake up call for parents and coaches – even the very best can’t ignore their learning system for too long.

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply February 23, 2013

    We should send her a copy of your book. I’ll chip in.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply February 24, 2013

      We should – speaking of which, have you received your copies James?

  • bob

    Reply Reply February 24, 2013

    as a 50year PGA MEMBER AND COACH TO A LOT OF GOOD PLAYERS I COULDNT AGREE MORE AND SHE ISNT THE ONLY ONE.
    CHECK OUT WHAT THE PARENTS HAVE DOnE ALSO THEY ARE MORE TO BLAME. IVE COACHED ALOT OF ASIAN KIDS <SOME OF TEIR PARENTS ARE AN ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE. NOT ALL FORTUNATLY

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply February 24, 2013

      Bob – your frustration is loud and clear. What would you do if you could coach her?

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply March 2, 2013

    Cam, I did. Thank you! Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Phone is about my only access to the internet and the battery is toast. Hope to get a new one today.

  • Bryon

    Reply Reply March 22, 2013

    Michelle,

    You need to go back to your youth, your putting style, and I blame it on your coaches, is horrible. Go back to the Michelle we fell in love with. Your forever fan!

  • Darryl Tsue

    Reply Reply May 18, 2013

    When Michelle Wie was 13 years old golf was “fun” to her. Now that she is doing it for a living, not so much fun anymore. She should take some time off, enjoy life, get rid of her current coach and start back again fresh.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 18, 2013

      Couldn’t agree more Darryl. I’m putting together the next issue of Automatic Golf Magazine and there’s going to be a feature on Michelle Wie. Thanks for sharing…

  • David Hill

    Reply Reply October 8, 2013

    Biggest problem-her dad is wacked and daddy and daughter share delusions. I honestly think Danny thought that she would follow Tiger’s career-Stanford-then stardom on PGA tour. She matured fast physically. Now teenage girls can readily outplay her, and unless she can win on the LPGA it takes some temerity or psychosis to think she is going to succeed on the PGA tour. She is universally disliked and cannot keep a caddy. The damage is done and I hope people recognize daddy’s duplicity in this tragedy. Vayas con dios Michelle. Danny is clueless

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