July 7, 2007

My Shot: Michelle Wie

We came to talk golf. Our child prodigy opted to discuss terrifying clowns, 16-hour snoozes, revolting elixirs and run-ins with the golf gods. Frankly, we're glad she got her way.

Michelle Wie, photographed May 27, 2004, at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando.

Michelle Wie, photographed May 27, 2004, at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando.

Age 14 Honolulu, Hawaii

Modern comedies aren't as good as the ones they used to make. I'm old school. I love "Dumb Dumber."

I learned most of the letters of the alphabet before I turned 1 and learned to read before I turned 2. My parents are so proud of that. My very first memory is going down by the pool in the apartment where we lived and reading the sign that said, "Warning: Don't dive." I didn't know what it meant, but I could read it and knew it had something to do with danger.

Place your palms together in front of your face, like you're praying. At the same time, put your forearms together so the inside points of your elbows are touching each other. Now stretch your arms straight out, keeping your palms together. See how my elbows are still touching and yours aren't? Only a girl can do that.

I wear a size 9 shoe. OK, so it's the men's size. But it's still only 9.

Throwing clubs or getting angry is bad for your karma. In a tournament once I chunked a chip in front of a lot of people. After I finished the hole I stomped toward the next tee. There was a gallery rope there, and I tripped on it and cut my leg. I still have the scar. It was the golf gods getting even with me.

If you expect a bad lie even for one second, the gods will know it and give you a bad lie, because you deserve it for thinking that way.

My mom gets this concoction from a special Korean food store in Los Angeles. They kill a goat and put it in a pressure cooker until the meat falls off. Then they add some kind of snake, a little ginseng and some herbs. They strain the juice and put it in a pouch, and you're supposed to drink it. It's like vomit mixed with coffee, totally disgusting, but it really increases my strength and stamina. I complain, but as my mom points out, I drink the whole thing twice a day.

Kids tend to copy their heroes. I use an interlocking grip because a long time ago, when I started playing golf, the best player in the world had an interlocking grip. I'm talking about Tiger Woods.

Jim Caviezel's initials are J.C., the same as Jesus Christ. Isn't that amazing? And did you know he was struck by lightning while he was making "The Passion of the Christ"? Sometimes I wonder, is all that just coincidence?

Ernie Els is really a good teacher. He showed me the coolest shot at the Sony Open. If you're in deep rough around the green, don't chop down on the ball or try to hack it out. Don't get frustrated, the way I used to. Instead, take a 60-degree wedge and make a long, smooth swing. Swing harder than you think you have to, and make sure you follow through. It's totally amazing—the ball will come out high and float onto the green.

In the final of the U.S. Women's Public Links last year, my opponent and I both had three-foot putts for par on the 35th hole. The match was all square, and I made my putt. Now she had to make her three-footer. What I've never told a writer before is, I wear a pendant on my neck with Mary on it. When I have an important shot to make, I sometimes hold it in my hand and say a little prayer. It always works. This time I held the pendant and said a prayer that she'd miss the putt. And she did miss, and I wound up winning. It made me wonder, though—is that the type of thing I should pray for?

I wasn't nervous at the Public Links or at the Sony Open. I used to get really nervous on the first tee, especially in big tournaments. My teeth would chatter and I'd feel cold, but my palms would sweat. Now I don't get nervous. You can tell that I'm not in a good mood when I get really quiet and walk fast.

I'm terrified of clowns. Always have been. It's called coulrophobia, and I have it bad. The fake smile, their refusal to talk, just scares me. My mom took me to see Ronald McDonald when I was small but never took me again. I screamed and cried the whole time.

I slept for 16 hours once. Early in the week of the Sony Open I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 1 the next day. When I can, I'll sleep more than 12 hours, and I don't feel very good if I get less than 10. The best thing about that is, there is no such thing as jet lag for me. I can sleep anywhere. Don't be offended, but I could fall asleep right now.

The perfect date would be dinner and a movie. A short dinner, and nothing fancy. My parents took me to a French restaurant once, and the chef recognized me. Instead of the usual seven courses, we had 13. We were there for 3 hours. It was a nightmare. We'd get ready to leave, and here'd come another course.

All of my teachers have been very understanding about my traveling and missing class. Except for one. In sixth grade, one teacher left a long message on our answering machine, telling us that if I intended to miss so many days I belonged in public school instead of private school. Some people just don't like athletes.

Global warming is a huge problem. Al Gore talks about it all the time. Have you seen "The Day After Tomorrow"? The huge hole in the ozone layer. Something has to be done about it.

You mean the PGA Tour media guide lists a player's weight and the LPGA Tour media guide doesn't? That's awesome. I think I'm overweight.

Riding in a cart is a lot more fun than walking. But only when my dad, who is the worst cart driver in the world, lets me drive.

Men on tour should be allowed to wear shorts when the temperature is in the 90s and it's humid. Gosh, the long pants are a health hazard when it's that hot. If I were one of those guys, I'd pass out. Or pretend like I was passing out, so they'd let me wear shorts.

By the time I'm old, golfers will be shooting 54s. You probably won't live to see it, but I'm sure I will.

One of the best times I've ever had was when JoAnne Carner invited me to join her for a practice round at the Dinah Shore. She is one of the most funny, honest, straightforward people I've ever met. She's so young at heart, so positive. And she hits the ball a mile. My favorite young golfer is Annika Sorenstam, but my favorite old golfer is JoAnne. I wouldn't mind getting older if I could be like her.

If I ever get bored with golf I'm going to start over and play left-handed. I have a pretty good swing left-handed already. I don't hit the ball far, but I'm a pretty good chipper.

I had a persimmon wood once. It felt so good when I hit it. The vibration that went through my hands was wonderful. Metal woods don't have that sweet feel. You can feel the face give a little at impact and can tell the ball really springs off the clubface. The persimmon feels better, but the metal woods perform better.

My autograph is ugly, but I like it. It'll be very hard to forge.

I don't mind it when I hit a ball into the woods. I think of it as an adventure. That's when golf really gets exciting and interesting.

If you're hitting the driver great and go to the range with a big bag of balls, you'll probably leave worse off than when you got there. My instructors, David Leadbetter and Gary Gilchrist, have said you can work flaws out of your swing by practicing, but you can also work flaws into your swing. If you're swinging well, skip the range and go to the short-game area.

My ball marker has a ladybug on it.If one lands on your putter, it's a sign you'll putt very well. They've landed on my putter many times; I seem to attract them. If you kill a ladybug, the red ones with black dots, you'll have bad luck forever.

The best thing about being six feet tall is, when I play to an elevated green I see where the ball winds up before anybody else. That's about it. I don't want to get any taller.

The worst thing about being tall? Little things. Like I went to the movies and asked the cashier for one children's ticket. She gave me a look and said, "That will be $8 please." That's the adult price. I said, "No, really, I'm a kid." She refused to believe me. And I didn't have any I.D. to prove it.

If I could do whatever I wanted to do this afternoon I'd go movie hopping. You know, go to a cineplex, buy one ticket and skip from one movie to another. That will be a challenge, tall as I am. And it's not totally honest. But if I'm paying the adult price, what the heck.