Wie Leads By Two Into Final Round of HSBC
The LPGA is still playing many time zones away, in Singapore. Here I sit on a Saturday afternoon, and a few of the leaders of the HSBC Women’s Championship have already started the final round. From the golfers’ perspective, especially for Michelle Wie, things might look fragile. A two-stroke lead can vanish in an instant when the trailing field is made up of Jutanugarns, Parks, Kos, Hendersons, and Kordas. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for Wie to test her nerves after a week of brilliant golf, and to keep the butterflies soft and small.
Wie hasn’t won on the tour since 2014, when she took the U.S. Women ‘s Open and the LPGA Lotte Championship, pretty good work for a season. Of course, whenever Wie is in contention, the armchair psychiatrists come out with discussions of her unrealized potential and mistakes made in guiding her career plans in her youth. In answer to that, I can only say “Whatever.” There comes a time to stop hashing out anything that didn’t happen, should have happened, might have happened, and all other forms of blah blah blah. It’s the Wie of today playing the tournament of today, and I believe that Michelle has a more healthy awareness of that than any of us think. She is probably less guilty of all the stuff that comes out of our unlicensed opinions on her psyche than we could imagine – which is what we’re doing. When I watch her play, I don’t see a shrinking violet, I don’t see a head case, and I don’t see a choker. She’s a competitive golfer treating herself in the best way possible, and is the most qualified to do so. As a fan of golf observing the action, what I’m excited about is seeing the fruits of her efforts without the injuries interfering. If a back, arm, leg, or wrist ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy where golf is concerned. There’s nothing psychiatric about it. So far, she’s put together three rounds from the mid to high 60s, and she should be on the first tee within the hour.
With some of the contenders a few holes into the fourth round, the kind of day it might turn out to be is already shaping up. Interesting is that Pornanong Phatlum, who began the day out of contention, is minus 5 through the first nine. That puts her at 9 under, in a lot more contention than yesterday. Jessica Korda and Shanshan Feng are also at 9 under, but haven’t made that kind of charge yet. Three South Korean golfers sit at minus 11, but then things get even more serious for Wie. Canadian Brooke Henderson has birdied three of the first four, and is suddenly only three back. If that turns into a habit, even a respectable round by Wie might not be enough. Ariya Jutanugarn is at minus 12, and her reputation as a 12 cylinder player is well-known.. Hyun Park joins her at -12, along with “You-Know-Who.” Yes, it’s Lydia Ko. I’m going out on a limb to predict that in order for Wie to finish off this championship, another round into the mid 60s might be required. Someone in that chasing group is going to catch fire. Wie will have to do the same, one more time.
That being said, she might very well be up to the challenge. Wie is now not only gifted, but seasoned as a 27 year-old tour veteran. If she wins it, she will put the finishing touch on three previous rounds of fine play. It’s a longer-term body of work that tells one how fit they are for their place in the pack, and nobody fakes the mid-60s for three days in a row. If Wie doesn’t win it, there will be no shame from defeat by any of the challengers. Some days, the putts fall, and some days they don’t. Regardless, if the injuries can be kept at bay, Wie might be back in a big way.