If Michelle Wie were a category on Jeopardy, there would be a lot of interesting answers expressed in the form of a question.
What was 15 years ago? The year 14-year-old Michelle missed the cut by only one stroke in a PGA Tour event.
What was 10 years ago? The year Wie joined the LPGA and picked up her first tour victory.
What was five years ago? The year Wie won the U.S. Women’s Open.
What was last year? The year Wie won the HSBC Women’s World Championship, the most recent of her five LPGA victories.
What is too many to count, Alex? List the injuries and illnesses that have plagued Michelle Wie in her career.
A medical student at Stanford, where Wie picked up an undergraduate degree in 2012, would be among the few to study as much literature as Michelle has in learning to cope with the health challenges tossed in her direction.
During her career, which started on the world stage as a pre-teen, she’s dealt with appendicitis, bursitis, strained Achilles tendons, a sprained left wrist, more food allergies than there are food groups and, last October, surgery on her right hand. And that’s only skimming her medical chart.
But this week she returns to Singapore eager to defend the HSBC Women’s World Championship title she claimed last year.
“I think I will be pretty close game-wise,” Wie told LPGA.com in an email interview about the state of her latest recovery. “But I will definitely be 100 percent happy to be back there healthy and able to defend my title.”
When asked what she has her sights set on in the new season, Wie was playfully optimistic. “I don’t like to over-share on my goals,” she said. “But I can tell you my number one goal is to be injury free in 2019!”
In that regard, she’s off to a good start, finishing T-23 in her season debut last week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. She opened with rounds of 68, 72 and 68 before fading with a 74 on Sunday, likely because she’s competed only once since Aug. 2 of last year.
This particular road back for Michelle has been intentionally slow, rushing nothing, as the goal is to return completely healthy, if possible.
“It was a very happy New Year for me as I was given the go-ahead to start hitting putts longer than a few feet and chipping,” Wie said. “Although I have been ultra-cautious to follow advice and to take it slowly, I was given the all-clear the last week of January to start preparing full out for the season ahead.”
For Wie, who loves to compete, the challenge has been patience. “It felt really slow and ultra-sensible,” she said. “I had my surgery in October and there has been so much rehab since then. But once I started back practicing at the beginning of the year, I’ve been building up slowly but steadily and, if I look at how far I have come in the last month, I feel really pleased with my progress and excited about the year ahead.”
No one is more aware of how much time has passed in the Michelle Wie Jeopardy game than the player herself.
“It is crazy to think I will be 30 this year, but I am kind of looking forward to it,” she says.
“Although I’ve been out there for a while, it doesn’t feel like that for me,” she says.
“Of course, being a professional golfer has been a huge part of my life, but I’ve also fit in a lot of other important life events, like high school and college,” she says about building a well-rounded life.
One accomplishment in which Wie is most proud is earning a Stanford degree, especially while maintaining a full LPGA schedule. Interests beyond golf – like food and art and friends – eased the burden of a competitive life. Even health setbacks have been a plus.
“I think I have really benefited from having a good balance in my life and, also, I have had some breaks through injuries, so it just doesn’t feel that long to me,” she says.
“I still feel unbelievably excited that a new season is about to start, and I’ll be back out on tour doing what I love," she says. "I guess I am still feeling pretty young and sprightly despite my advancing years!”
Then, with one last dash of the whimsy that has endeared her to so many of her fellow LPGA members, Wie said: “Rest assured, I am feeling very happy both on and off course and extremely excited that I will be back out on the LPGA playing competitively and seeing you all very soon.”
Who is one happy group of people? All those fans Michelle Wie has attracted over the years who are thrilled to have her back where she belongs – playing competitive golf.