Michelle Wie has been hitting balls for only a week, but she’s playing in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National.
A wrist injury, that started two years ago and has forced her to take breaks from playing several times over the past two seasons, flared up again, forcing Wie to take time. Her leave from the sport started at the end of April. She said she talked to the tour about the possibility of taking a medical leave for the year, but ultimately decided against it.
Wie spoke about her frustrations in taking time off in the middle of the season. Missing the U.S. Women’s Open was especially difficult for Wie, who won the championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014. Her time off has been spent working with her doctors, focusing on getting the inflammation down and doing lots of physical therapy. Now that she’s hitting balls again, she’s also making adjustments to her swing in order to take some of pressure off of her hands.
One bright spot in the otherwise difficult hiatus from golf was the NBA Finals. Wie’s fiance, Jonnie West, is the director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors. Since Wie wasn’t able to practice or play, it allowed her time to watch the Warriors play in the Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
It was a series that had no shortage of injuries. Being court-side and seeing some of what happens behind the scenes, Wie came away inspired to end her leave from golf and play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“It’s very difficult time for me, you know, being injured,” Wie said on Tuesday at Hazletine. “Fortunately, I was able to spend some time with him [West] and go and support him and the team and it was pretty inspiring to see actually a tough series, lot of injuries and lot of people playing while they’re injured. I learned a lot from that, learned a lot, inspired by their tenacity and willingness to win and doing whatever it takes to be out there and that’s actually what inspired me to be out here this week.”
Two moments stood out in particular: When Steph Curry dislocated his finger and continued to play, and when Klay Thompson tore his ACL, just to come back onto the court and make two free throws.
“When you’re there behind the scenes you really notice a lot of small things,” Wie explained. “You saw the picture of [Curry’s] finger going out in different directions and him coming back and fighting through and putting up all those shots. Klay tearing the ACL. Made both those free throws. It’s really inspiring. You also notice that being an athlete, you’re not ever going to be at 100 percent, you’re always going to go through something and it was a confirmation to me being like it’s okay, it’s okay, that you’re hurt, that’s just part of being an athlete and you just have to go through it and find a way to compete.”
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is Wie’s first event since the LOTTE Championship, which took place in mid-April. Though she’s working with an adjusted swing and is not swinging totally pain-free, she’s also not sitting out. And that’s the most important thing to her.
“I may be bull-headed and stubborn but it’s just — I’m happy being here,” said Wie. “I missed my friends out here, I missed playing, I miss competing and I’m very excited to be here.”