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Michelle Wie aims to get career back on track

Michelle Wie is healthier, stronger and determined to succeed but concedes her injured wrists will never be the same.

"I just accepted the fact that it's never going to be 100 percent ever again. After a major injury last year, it's never going to be the way it was before," she said Tuesday as she prepared for the LPGA Tour's Fields Open, which begins Thursday.

The 18-year-old Wie said she's accepted that her wrists are as good as they can be. She's hoping to get her career back on track after a troublesome season of injuries, missed cuts and withdrawals.

"Obviously, it's not 110 percent, but I feel pretty healthy," she said. "I feel a lot stronger. I feel like I can be a lot more aggressive with the ball. I feel more like an athlete right now."

Wie is starting the season on her home island of Oahu for the fifth straight year on a sponsor's exemption. This time, she's playing against women.

She injured both wrists last year but kept playing, and struggling. She made only three cuts. In nine starts, she withdrew twice and only broke par twice in 19 rounds against women.

Wie didn't want to talk too much about 2007.

"Last year already happened. Talking about last year is not going to change anything," she said. "Obviously, if somebody invented a time machine, I would go back and try to change a couple of things. But talking about it changes nothing. My goal this year is to stay in the present ... and just enjoy life."

Wie spent most of Tuesday at Ko Olina, where she finished third in 2006, working with swing coach David Leadbetter.

Leadbetter said his young student is swinging much better and noticeably stronger. Her short game is solid but she's still a little uncertain with the driver, hitting an occasional wild shot.

"Her swing is starting to come back and she's not complaining too much about the wrists," he said. "There's still a few little creaks there, but overall she's been on this rehab program which is helping her tremendously."

Wie is enjoying life at Stanford where she is a freshman and wrapping up her winter quarter. She lives in a dorm, eats chicken and tofu in the cafeteria and takes early morning or night classes so she can practice during the day. Her courses include Japanese, humanities and a hip-hop dance class.

She shared some of her Japanese abilities for the Japanese media, but refused to demonstrate any dance moves.

"Don't ask me to show you anything," said Wie, who plans to take the spring quarter off to play golf.

Wie hasn't been back in Hawaii since leaving last May. One of the first things she did when she returned was to visit Punahou School, which also boasts Barack Obama as one of its alumni.

"The moment I landed here, all of the reasons why I love home came back," she said.

She had started her season at the PGA Tour's Sony Open the previous four years and nearly made the cut as a 14-year-old when she shot a 68. But she has yet to make a cut in seven tries on the PGA Tour, and didn't play at Waialae this year.

Wie hasn't completed her schedule yet and wouldn't rule out playing against the men.

"I'll have to see how it goes," she said. "It depends how I play. I'm not going to say I'm not going to play. I'm going to have to see. I'm not really sure what's going to happen this year."

Not many people are.

This is her first start since the Samsung World Championship in October, where she finished 19th in a 20-player field.

Wie said her goals this year is to be in contention again, feel the adrenaline rush and maybe even win a couple of tournaments.

"That would be awesome," said Wie, who is allowed six exemptions on the LPGA Tour, and could try to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open and Women's British Open.

Wie has a lot to prove, especially after her highly publicized troubles last year where she even criticized by Annika Sorenstam, who was angered by Wie pulling out of the Swede's tournament, only to be seen hitting balls on the range at the next tourney.

Sorenstam also is entered in the Fields Open and has successfully returned from injuries last year. She is seeking a Hawaiian sweep after winning the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay for her 70th LPGA Tour title and first since September 2006.

Wie repeatedly said she's put 2007 behind her, emphasizing that she's just thinking about the present.

"I just want to prove to myself that I can do this. That I really can bounce back," she said. "I want to prove to myself a lot of things, but I really don't feel like I have to prove myself to other people. I doing this for myself."

Leadbetter said he's not surprised that so many people have written off Wie, calling it "human nature," when someone is built up so high then falls off the perch for whatever reason.

"Everybody thinks, 'Well, Michelle is finished.' But you don't become a bad player overnight," he said. "Things happen and you learn from things. The fact is when you have an injury, learn to accept the fact, heal and get back to competitive play."


February 20, 2008

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