Reason: Wie an inspiration for rising star Ko

18:47, Jun 24 2014
Michelle Wie
STAR POWER: Michelle Wie is widely regarded as the biggest name in women's golf.

Lydia Ko calls Michelle Wie "my best unni", a Korean term of admiration and respect for a surrogate big sister. Thanks to big sister Lydia just became a whole lot wiser and richer. Wie's victory in the US Open at Pinehurst over the weekend will be inspiration, education and motivation for Ko as well as having a significant impact on the commercial value of the LPGA Tour.

It is also a great redemption story. For three or four years Wie was a wretchedly sad teenager. She was bitched about on tour. In 2005 Morgan Pressel whinged, "she's been given everything and left the rest of us with nothing."

Pressel was an amateur at the time, but her comment also reflected the views of many professionals. Wie was an outcast. At one point her coach David Leadbetter said, "She couldn't have cared if she never played again." Wie was surrounded by advisers and security to protect her from supposed death threats, but she was a very lonely girl.

What joy it was then to see "the big Wiesy" grow up and play like she did in the 2014 US Open where she opened with a round of 68. To put that in context, her previous opening rounds at the US Open were 82, 81, 82, 78, 74, 80. There were withdrawals and missed cuts and misery. Now there was hope.

And a big part of that hope is because for the first time in her life Wie really belongs.

Mentoring Ko has been a part of that. Her friendship with a new generation of players has provided the right type of security. Her time at Stanford University and her experiences at the Solheim Cup, something that Ko will never be able to draw from, have also greatly helped Wie's development.


A week ago Wie was walking down Pinehurst's 18th fairway watching Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler. She wanted to feel that same experience. But instead of going away by herself to try to dig the dream out of the ground, Wie got hold of Fowler and Keegan Bradley's yardage books.

Wie called them a "cheat sheet". Her coach David Leadbetter said, "She knows where she wants to put it every hole."

Ko can learn from that. The New Zealander fell apart on the second nine of her opening round playing a stretch of six holes in six-over-par. That run was the difference between finishing 15th and third. What was her game plan? She had Fluff Cowan on the bag, but how did it go so wrong so quickly?

Ko comes from the same coaching stable as Wie so she can pick her unni's brains. She can refine her game plan. Of course she cannot play like Wie. No woman on the planet can. It is what has made the girl from Hawaii so special.

Wie was able to manage the back nine at Pinehurst by hitting a three-wood stinger off the tee, the shot that Tiger Woods made famous. It doesn't soar into the blue yonder, but flies straight, staying under the radar, and the ball runs forever.

"Yes Wie Can" say the banners, but no we can't is the reality. I remember seeing Wie hit a three-iron to a couple of feet at the 2009 Solheim. It was the shot of a top men's professional. Her club head speed and torque at impact are phenomenal.

"You like that Patrick?" said Wie to her then caddie.

Like was not a strong enough word. We were infatuated. Truth is beauty and all of that.

There was another shot like it at Pinehurst on Monday. Wie's drive down the par-five 10th left her an eight-iron into the green and set up a crucial eagle. When the face of the driver made contact with the ball there was almost a whiplash effect. The power and the timing made you tingle.

This is why Wie is so important to the LPGA Tour. She moves the dial. The head of the golf channel once told me that only Woods, Mickelson and Wie have a significant impact on ratings. Wie was once resented by her fellow professionals for this pulling power, now she is embraced. The new generation are altogether smarter and cuter.

Stacey Lewis said, "I think that scene on 18, being on network TV, I don't think you can script it any better. I think it's even better for women's golf. I'm so happy for Michelle Wie. This has been such a long time coming for her."

I can think of a few sour faces among the older generation when Wie won, but the tour thankfully is passing them by. The kids are coming and they shame the previous generation. Lewis finished second, but she still made it onto the final green for the celebrations.

Lexi Thompson, the winner of the first women's major of the year, said, "It will mean a lot of things for women's golf. I think it will grow women's golf a lot."

Thank heavens for these girls. They are reviving women's golf. At 24 Wie is the same age as Annika Sorenstam when she won the first of her 10 majors. I don't think she will match that number, but she will have a bigger impact on the game.

When Wie was playing so beautifully at that 2009 Solheim Cup, the start of her road to redemption, Christina Kim said, "There's no shell in Michelle." We thanked her for it, but we knew it wasn't quite true. Now Wie has finally come out of that shell. She is smiling and the game is fun again.

Or as Leadbetter said, the hop is back in the step.