Wie focuses on swing tempo
By Tom Canavan
By Tom Canavan
SUMMIT, N.J. — Michelle Wie has a good chance of becoming the first female to qualify for the U.S. Open if she can work out the kinks in her swing tempo over the next few days, instructor David Leadbetter said yesterday.
Wie practiced on the range and then played nine holes on the Canoe Brook Country Club's North Course in preparation for Monday's 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier.
All the 16-year-old professional has to do to make the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., is finish in the top 18 in the field of 153 players.
"She just qualified on the practice tee," Leadbetter quipped after working on Wie's swing for more than an hour. "I think she's got a decent shot at it. She is confident. She had a very good outing in Korea a few weeks ago and she is swinging pretty well overall."
Wie refused to speak either before or after playing.
"She has to focus on her preparation," said her father, BJ, who walked the course with his daughter, wife Bo, Leadbetter and caddie Greg Johnston.
Leadbetter focused much of his attention on Wie's tempo. It has a tendency to quicken during her swing, and that leads to a tendency to pull the ball left.
Playing in front of fewer than a dozen spectators, Wie yanked the ball left on the second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh holes. Her frustration seemed to peak at the 212-yard, par-3 seventh, where she took five shots off the tee. Her first finished on the adjacent sixth fairway. Three of the next four landed short and left in a greenside bunker. The other went over the green.
"Give her a day or so," Leadbetter said. "She hit a lot of good shots, too."
Wie actually hit several outstanding shots. She put her second shot on the first hole 10 feet from the pin. She missed the birdie putt.
After taking a mulligan on the downwind, downhill, 572-yard, par-5 second hole, Wie hit her second drive 327 yards, then hit the green from 245 yards.
"I got that in my bag," quipped Stew Robertson, 71, of North Brunswick. "Then I wake up from my dream and I don't have it."
Wie also reached the 501-yard, par-5 eighth hole, which was playing into the wind, in two.
Leadbetter called the North and South courses at Canoe Brook classic old courses that aren't "tricked up." Hitting the small greens will yield birdies, he said.
Wie has the game and personality to make golf history, he said.
"It really is incredible," he said. "No way a few years ago would you have ever dreamed of a 16-year-old girl having the opportunity of hopefully getting into the men's U.S. Open.
"Her mind-set, not only her great athletic ability and great golf swing. She has an unbelievable mind. She really thrives on pressure. She likes the pressure-cooker situation. Her game seems to get better the more the pressure is on."
The atmosphere Monday is expected to be zoo-like, with many people coming to see if Wie can beat the field of PGA Tour professionals and club pros.
Leadbetter said the commotion won't bother her.
In her recent tournament in South Korea, she played as cell phones rang and police sirens chased fans off a local road.
"Nothing will be worse than that," Leadbetter said. "This will be a walk in the park."
Wie's first day at Canoe Brook was calm. As she loosened up on the far right, teenagers Jake McIntyre of Chatham and Mike Sawyer of Summit hit balls before their round.
As Wie was about to start hitting, they walked away.
McIntyre took out a camera and videotaped Wie's swing.
Asked why he didn't stay and hit near Wie, Sawyer stated the obvious.
"It would be embarrassing," he said.
If Wie finds her swing tempo by Monday, a couple of pros also might be embarrassed.
"It's not going to be easy," Leadbetter said. "It's a very good group of players, good tour players and some good club professionals. She is going to have to play well. There are only 18 spots. We're confident."