PHOENIX >> Michelle Wie is trying to have fun — and stay healthy.
“My goal is to play the whole year and not to take an extended break during the season,” Wie said at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. “That would be my whole goal. Keep my organs in my body.”
Yep, last August — a week after helping the U.S. win the Solheim Cup — she had her appendix removed after being stricken before the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.
She has recently fought arthritis in her hands, first with cortisone and now with collagen injections. She also is off to a fast start this season, winning the HSBC Women’s World Championship two weeks ago in Singapore for her fifth career victory and first since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I’ve working really hard on my putting,” Wie said. “During the offseason, I putt and chip for at least five hours a day. I just put in the time. It feels good that it’s paying off. … I think being confident with your putter, it brings a different mindset into the game.”
Now 28, she has spent more than half of her life in the spotlight. That has made her health and game struggles more difficult — and made her stronger.
“I think the first down really shocked me. I took it really hard and it wasn’t easy,” Wie said. “Then you start to realize that life doesn’t really happen that way. You start to hear about other people going through injuries and stuff like that. Then you see some people and their life seems so easy. Everyone has their own struggles. I think my struggles have just been very publicized and very public.
“After the first time it gets easier, and then it gets harder and then it gets easier. I just draw strength from knowing that I’ve done it before and I have reached very lows and I’ve pulled myself out of it. I definitely have a lot of confidence from that, just knowing from experience that I can.”
She will open play Thursday at Desert Ridge in a group with Bahamas winner Brittany Lincicome and Women’s Australian Open champion Jin Young Ko.
“I always think the best is in front of me,” Wie said. “That’s why I practice and work so hard.”
Defending champion Anna Nordqvist will play alongside Thailand winner Jessica Korda and Ariya Jutanugarn the first two days. Nordqvist starred at Arizona State, and coach Missy Farr-Kaye and some the defending NCAA champion Sun Devils watched the Swede’s practice round Tuesday.
“ASU is always going to be family to me,” Nordqvist said. “I came here when I was 18 years old. I was very shy. I wouldn’t speak up. I was not very mature. … Just to have a lot people caring about you and still do, that means a lot.”
Nelly Korda, Jessica’s 19-year-old sister, is trying to rebound after missing a chance for her first tour victory in the Singapore event.
Needing a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff with Wie, Nelly missed an 8-footer.
“My emotions were flowing,” Nelly said. “I saw Jess behind the green when I was walking up to 18 and I had to hold back some tears. I think like when I just missed that putt and I saw her and she gave me the hug I just completely lost it. I had a couple tears going down my face.”
Her 25-year-old sister cheered her up.
“I told her that she shot under par, she definitely didn’t lose it and that her time will come,” Jessica said. “This is all a learning experience. When she is in that position next time, she’ll know better. She’ll know how she’s feeling. She can prepare better for it and kind of feed off that experience.”
They’ll play in consecutive groups Thursday and Friday, with Nelly joining Inbee Park and Sung Hyun Park.
Amy Alcott, Sandy LaBauve and Susie Maxwell Berning are being honored as “Pioneers” at the event created in recognition of the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour in 1950. Alcott had 29 victories in her Hall of Fame career, Berning won three U.S. Women’s Open titles, and LaBauve is a teaching professional who founded LPGA-USGA Girls Golf in Phoenix in 1989.
“I think the fact that we have a tournament honoring our founders is so amazing,” Wie said. “Those founders, they sacrificed so much that I could be here up on stage. Just growing the game. Definitely without them I would not have been a professional women’s golfer, so we owe everything to them.”