U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
The Adventure Continues for Versatile Wie June 1, 2018 | Shoal Creek, Ala. By Julie Williams

Having recently tasted victory for the first time in nearly four years, Michelle Wie is increasingly comfortable with her game. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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In many ways, Michelle Wie is a chameleon. Just start with her hair. Wie is sporting a new light-pink dye job at the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open this week that she admits to having done herself.

Sometimes subtropical storm-induced cabin fever produces pink hair, and sometimes it gives a player a break from the grind of LPGA Tour life. The latter was the case for Wie on Tuesday as rain soaked Shoal Creek and many players cut their losses.

“I didn’t come out to the golf course at all,” Wie said. “I kind of completely took an off day. That was actually quite nice.”

Wie normally would “play a lot more golf” in the run-up to a Women’s Open, but it didn’t seem to impact her game. She opened with 3-under-par 69 on Thursday.

The most striking transformation in Wie as she creeps closer to 30 is how increasingly comfortable she looks in front of the camera, in front of a microphone and in front of a major-championship crowd. Wie made her USGA debut as a 10-year-old at the 2000 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, then qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2003 and every year since.

At this stage in the game for Wie, 28, it’s about winning. Four years have passed since she claimed the 2014 Women’s Open at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort. Since then, Wie has won again only once, the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore in March.

Part of the battle is staying healthy. She withdrew after one shot in the second round of the 2017 Women’s Open because of a lingering neck injury and had to withdraw from the CP Women’s Open the following month to undergo an emergency appendectomy. These days, rehab is a huge part of Wie’s daily schedule.

“I did a good, solid six hours on Tuesday of just rehab stuff,” she said. “Any free time I get, you know, I’m just in rehab mode always.”

Rewind to her 2014 Women’s Open victory, and she will tell you it took a massive amount of positive self-talk to close out a final-round 70 for a two-shot victory. Having her name engraved on the Women’s Open Trophy makes this championship a little bit surreal, even four years later.

“Still doesn’t seem like completely real to me,” Wie said. “Every time I hear it, it’s pretty great.”

Wie is good at keeping things in perspective. She drew friends and past Solheim Cup teammates Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson for the first two rounds, and they start at 1:26 p.m. CDT on Friday. Korda was one of the women who flooded the 18th green at Pinehurst to celebrate Wie’s victory.

The self-described best part of Wie’s game right now is what’s going on in her head.

“I’m just really enjoying the game right now, just having fun out there and taking it as an adventure and everything as an adventure,” she said.

She’s also a well-known tinkerer. She tabletop-putted her way to victory in the 2014 Women’s Open, but has since straightened her posture and frequently changes her grip. It has reached the point that she jokingly asks for confirmation of her current stroke from assembled media.

“Left-hand low, I think, right?” Wie confirmed after her first round. At one point, Wie had five different putting grips.

Wie had to make a 35-footer for birdie on the final green to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore in March. It just shows that you never know what kind of drama awaits in a Wie win.

Julie Williams is a Florida-based freelance writer.

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