GALLOWAY, N.J. -- "What's wrong with Michelle Wie?"
These days, it's one of the most frequently asked questions in women's golf. The former teen phenom, now 22, shot a 12-over 154 (78-76) at the Shoprite Classic in Galloway, N.J., this week to miss her fifth cut in a row (sixth if you count her first-round ouster in the Sybase Match Play Championship two weeks ago). Wie, whose career has been on a very public roller-coaster ride ever since she turned pro at age 16 in 2005, seems to have fallen into a quicksilver-like slump since graduating from Stanford University in March. Her putting, always her Achilles heel, has crumbled completely (she took 67 putts over two rounds in New Jersey), and her driving isn't far behind (she managed to hit 12 out of 28 fairways in the same two days). Experts and casual watchers alike seem to agree that whatever is ailing the tall Hawaiian, it must be mental.
Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott of Vision 54, the golf/life coaches who have written several books on playing with confidence and purpose, were recently hired by team Wie to work alongside swing coach David Leadbetter on the less technical side of Wie's game. "So far, we've only worked together for a few hours," Nilsson says. "We're still getting to know each other. There are a lot of people who have opinions about Michelle and her game, but we're still mainly observing." Nilsson suggests that what's going on with Wie is fairly typical for players who become successful at a young age. "This can easily happen when you're a really good player as a child. Then you enter a period when you turn into a grownup and start to think about things more. It's usually just a phase, and one that many players go through -- Ai Miyazato is a good example -- but very few have to go through it with as many eyes on them as Michelle." Nilsson is convinced that Wie has all the tools needed to get out of her funk, as long as she can learn to identify her most important performance skills. "It's all connected," she says. "With Michelle it's the putting, but whether it's that or chipping or driving, it comes from the same place. You have to identify the thing that makes it all work and own that. And that's what we're here to help her do."
Former LPGA Tour player Jeehae Lee, Wie's longtime friend and new road manager, says Wie's spirits are still high despite her recent dismal results. "She remains positive and focuses on the things she can improve on. She's very resilient and she works hard when she goes back home."
It's impossible to look at Wie's situation and not surmise that the complex, ultra-close relationship she shares with her parents has something to do with her on-course woes. Bo and B.J. Wie have famously hovered around their only daughter her whole life, ever since the public first noticed the 13-year-old girl when she won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links in 2003. When Michelle enrolled at Stanford, Bo and B.J. also left Hawaii and moved into a house near her college campus. When she graduated this spring, the whole family moved back in together in a new house in Jupiter, Fla. The Wie parental unit follow their daughter's every step at every tournament, and accompany her to every practice session. But blaming mom and dad isn't going to help, says Nilsson. "Every player has a unique support team, and there are lots of cultural differences out here. But the thing you can't get away from as a player is that when you're on the golf course, you have to own your performance. It doesn't matter what country you're from."
Lee, for one, is convinced that Wie is the one steering her own career; she's not just living out her parents' dream. "I've asked her in private, and she really wants this. She's got conviction. She just needs one round where everything comes together to regain her confidence."
*UPDATE: On Saturday evening, Wie posted the following to her Twitter account:
@themichellewie think i have shed more tears this year than i ever have in my entire life combined...but its time now to put on my big girl pants!
@themichellewie SICK and TIRED of playing like s@$t (excuse the language). Time to turn things around! #keepbelieving #nevergiveup