Say what you will about Michelle Wie’s early career. After her many ups and downs, it was great to see her win her first major championship at Pinehurst in the 2014 US Open at the ripe old age of 24. Wie took a three-stroke lead into the sixteenth hole in the final round, but made double-bogey on sixteen to cut her lead to a single shot. On seventeen she rolled in 25-foot birdie put using her unorthodox “table-top” putting style to give herself a two-shot cushion. Wie then made par on eighteen to seal the victory.
As a youngster, Wie had a long, flowing swing and hit the ball a long way off the tee. Comparisons to Tiger Woods and other men’s tour pros were constant. She was the youngest player to qualify for the Women’s US Amateur at age 10, the youngest winner of the Women’s US Amateur Public Links at 13 and the first woman to qualify for the USGA Men’s Amateur Public Links at age 15. She played in several LPGA and even PGA Tour events even before turning pro just prior to her 16th birthday.
Though she came close to winning the US Open when she was 16, she’s been thought by many to have not fulfilled the early promise shown. Injuries and other setbacks plagued her early pro career. After she turned 18, Wie attended Stanford University to pursue a degree in the fall and winter while she played golf on the LPGA Tour each spring and summer. Before her 2014 US Open victory, Michelle had won 3 times on the LPGA Tour, but was winless since 2010.
Before the start of the 2014 season, Wie took a five week break from golf. Her long-time instructor David Leadbetter claimed it was the first time since she was a child (except for injuries) that she didn’t even pick up a club for such a long interval. She came back refreshed, rededicated and refocused. She also insisted on having fun and reworked parts of her game.
Two areas where the changes were apparent during her Open victory were in her putting and the length of her full swing. When putting, Wie, who stands over six-feet tall, bends at the waist almost to 90 degrees and uses a shorter-than-normal putter. It seems to have helped improve her confidence and consistency. That birdie putt on her next-to-last hole in the US Open was certainly a confident stroke and rolled right into the center of the cup.
Wie’s backswing is much more compact now, compared to her swing when she was younger. Since she’s no longer trying to compete with men, she doesn’t need to hit the ball three hundred yards to be competitive. This more compact swing gives her more control, especially off the tee, allowing her to keep her ball in play. Fairways and greens are the formula for success in the US Open and Wie’s compact swing allowed her to be successful in the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst.
What can you take from Michelle Wie’s 2014 Open victory? Instead of trying to hit the ball as far as you can, try shortening your swing to see if you get more control, too. Her putting style isn’t for everybody. But if you’re not putting well, experiment until you find a method that works for you. Maybe the most important thing you can take from Michelle Wie’s US Open victory is how much fun she had. She looked like she was really enjoying herself out there. You should always remember to enjoy yourself out on the course, too. After all, that’s why we play.