MICHELLE WIE’S 5 WAYS
Why the US Open champion had a breakout year in 2014.
WINNING THE US OPEN IN 2014... it still seems surreal. When I was growing up, I wanted to win that tournament so badly, and now that I have, I’m still trying to come to grips with the long road it took to get here. I had incredible experiences last year – it was a real breakthrough for me. Besides winning the Open, I won another LPGA Tour event, finished second in the season’s first major (the Kraft Nabisco) and third in two other events. So why now? Why, at age 24, almost nine years after I turned pro, am I playing my best? Well, a lot has changed about my game and my attitude towards golf. In talking to my coach, David Leadbetter, we believe it’s a combination of factors that has made the difference – five, to be exact. We’d like to share those things here, in hopes that they can do for you what they did for me. What I’ve learned from my turnaround can be summed up in a quote from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – WITH RON KASPRISKE
1 I’M LOVING HITTING DRIVER
Last year I really took advantage of my length off the tee. I used to pull out a fairway wood or hybrid on tight holes, but I’ve reached a point where I don’t care that I’m not going to be that player who hits 14 fairways. I’m going to be in the trees sometimes. But as long as my drives go somewhat in the right direction, I’m good with that. And besides, I’m not so bad out of the trees.
The lesson for the average golfer here is, swing your driver with confidence – and that means let it fly. If you trust your driver, the distance you’ll gain will translate into shorter approach shots. Michelle went from hitting 69 percent of greens in 2013 to 77 percent in 2014. More greens in reg means lower scores.
2 I’M PHYSICALLY STRONGER
I used to think I had strong legs, but when I started working with my trainer, David Donatucci, we found that wasn’t true. I was a long hitter when I was young, but my lack of lower-body strength made me inconsistent. So I really got focused on making my legs, glutes and hips stronger, and now my swing is more stable. That means I can consistently hit the ball hard. I don’t have to force myself to get into good positions. Now it comes naturally.
If you’re going to hit it long, your lower body has to help out. It needs to be stable when you take the club back, so you can wind your upper body. And it has to provide support and leverage the ground when you swing down to help generate clubhead speed. Golfers should spend a good portion of their workouts strengthening the lower body, specifically the quads and glutes, to improve their technique.
3 MY SWING IS EASIER TO REPEAT
When I was a kid, I had an extra-long swing like so many juniors do. But a while back I sat down with David and told him my No 1 goal was consistency. That led to shortening my swing, making it more compact. I don’t take the club back as far as I used to with my arms, but I’m still making a full turn and generating a lot of torque. It’s much easier to control the ball when you don’t have a long arm swing that relies on timing. There’s less chance I’ll make a mistake and hit a bad shot now that my swing is shorter.
Consistency comes from no wasted motion. A three-quarter-length arm swing with a full upper-body turn will help you hit the ball solidly time after time. The shortened swing also will help you keep the club in front of your body coming down. That makes it easier to square the clubface at impact and hit the ball on line.
4 MY PUTTING STYLE WORKS
I get a lot of comments about my putting posture. David likes to call it “table-top putting,” because I’m so bent over. I used to putt standing tall, but I had a really hard time connecting to the ball. I couldn’t see the line as well or feel comfortable with my distance control. This style puts me lower to the ground, so I can see the line. It also helps eliminate any wrist action. I don’t know if I’ll keep doing it, but for now it’s working for me.
This is the one area of the game where you can be individualistic. If an unconventional style or grip feels right, go with it. No one ever criticised Jack Nicklaus for his hunched-over putting stance. But whatever you choose, make sure to take the hands out of the stroke. You want to rock your shoulders without independent hand movement.
5 I GOT MY PASSION BACK
I love golf again. I can’t wait to get out on the course and practice. I remember a time when it was grind, grind, grind, and I didn’t see any results. Now I’m seeing results, and that’s partly because of my attitude. Plus, I know much more about my swing. The ball is doing what I want it to do. That breeds confidence. Now when things go wrong, I know why, and I can fix them. In other words, I can just play.
Whether you’re fighting through an injury or have had a spurt of bad play, it’s easy to sour on the game. Remind yourself why you started playing golf: You enjoy it. Draw on the swing thoughts that worked when you were playing better, and try to stay upbeat. Your game will come around.
‘ I SET UP LOWER TO THE GROUND NOW WHEN I GET OVER PUTTS. I CAN SEE THE LINE BETTER.’