Stats and Stuff: Wie’s wonderful season continues with LOTTE victory

Michelle Wie
Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Michelle Wie hits her first shot on the 5th hole during the final round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf on April 19, 2014 in Kapolei, Hawaii.

April 22 2014, Ward Clayton

Wie’s wonderful season continues with LOTTE victory

Golf fans are seeing the maturation of Michelle Wie during the 2014 season. The 24-year-old continued the ascent early this season with a victory near her home in Hawaii at last Saturday’s LPGA LOTTE Championship.

“I think I’m just really appreciating the game,” Wie said after the win at Ko Olina Golf Club, approximately 30 minutes from her childhood home in Honolulu. “I obviously went through a lot of hard times and good times. Just knowing how much I’ve been through, I think I’m just really appreciating the fact I can go out here and play the game I love for a living. I just realize how lucky I am, how lucky I am to be here.”

Wie leads the way in a number of statistical categories and has improved in others dramatically – most notably putting – and could be on the brink of her best season since turning pro at age 15 in early October 2005. Here’s a look:     

1. Overall season: Though just seven tournaments into the 2014 season, Wie is nearing a season high in earnings (ranked first on the LPGA this year), stroke average (first) and Greens in Regulation (first) and has four top 10s and one win. She hasn’t finished worse than 16th this season. Here’s a glance at her best seasons since 2005:
  Year Earnings  Wins Top 5s Top 10s Stroke Avg.
  2009 $918,650 1 6 8 70.57
  2010 $888,002 1 4 5 71.34
  2006 $730,921 0 6 72.06
  2014 $616,555 1 4 69.57
2. Stroke average: Wie has had only three rounds over par this season and has completed four tournaments with all rounds under par in 28 total rounds.
3. Greens in Regulation: Wie has hit 81 percent of the greens in regulation thus far this season. That includes one round where she went 18-for-18 and only one round where she hit less than 13 greens in a round (10). In her last two starts, a second and a win, she has placed first in Greens in Regulation (61 of 72 at Kraft Nabisco, 85 percent; 59 of 72 at LPGA Lotte, 82 percent).
4. Driving Distance: Even though Wie doesn’t rank among the leaders in this category (257.1 average, 49th), her ability to drive the ball a great distance is always there. This is shown in her domination of the par 5s. Wie is 46-under par on the thee-shot holes this year – including 10-under at the Kraft Nabisco Championship – in a total of 72-under cumulatively for all holes this season.
5. Putting: This is the area where Wie has shown the most improvement. Since going to a accentuated bend-at-the-waist style in 2013 to allow Wie to get her 6-foot height closer to the ball, she has improved dramatically. She is ranked 17th in Putting per Greens in Regulation and 70th in Putts per Round this season.

“Sometimes I think it’s just what I feel comfortable with that day,” Wie said at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she finished second. “Sometimes it’s a little bit higher feels comfortable. Sometimes I want to touch my toes when I putt. So it really depends on what day it is and what I feel comfortable.”

A look at her Putting per Greens in Regulation over the last six years:

Year Stat Rank
2009 1.760 5
2010 1.84 82
2011 1.92 132
2012 1.89 119
2013 1.79 25
2014 1.782 17

American surge continues

Michelle Wie’s victory was the fourth by an American this season, joining Jessica Korda (Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic), Paula Creamer (HSBC Women’s Champions) and Lexi Thompson (Kraft Nabisco Championship). American players have won five of the last 10 LPGA events. A South Korean golfer hasn’t won on the LPGA since Amy Yang last October at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship in South Korea, a stretch of 12 tournaments. During that period, the Americans overtook South Korea for the top seed in this summer’s International Crown.

Swinging Skirts, Lake Merced debut

New events usually get the attention of the players, but this week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic is even more on the radar because of the LPGA’s first-ever co-sanctioned event (with the LPGA Taiwan) in America and because of the tournament site, Lake Merced Golf Club.

Lake Merced Golf Club earns some credibility because of its San Francisco location adjacent to Olympic Club, San Francisco Golf Club and TPC Harding Park. The 1923 design, with Alister MacKenzie’s work on the bunkering and green complexes and a Rees Jones re-do in 1996, is minutes from downtown San Francisco. The par-72, 6,500-yard layout displays its historic nature with hole names such as Foghorn, Pine Cone, MacKenzie, Golden Gate, Sea Breeze, Tightrope, Fortress and Alcatraz. In 1990, when the club hosted the U.S. Junior Amateur, it marked 14-year-old Tiger Woods’ first USGA event (he made it to the semifinals before losing).

Etc.
If the LPGA wanted to start a pickup basketball league, the last three winners would be good candidates. Anna Nordqvist, Lexi Thompson and Michelle are all 6 feet tall. … Paula Creamer has made 74 consecutive cuts, the longest current streak on the LPGA. Her last missed cut came at the 2010 season-ending LPGA Tour Championship. … Suzann Pettersen returned to practice in Orlando with instructor David Leadebetter last week after suffering a back injury in early April. She is in the field for this week’s Swinging Skirts. Pettersen last played in late March at the JTBC Founders Cup.

Topics: Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, Wie, Michelle, Stats and Stuff

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