The Solheim Cup may be a team event, but all eyes will be on one particular member of the U.S. squad when Meg Mallon’s unit takes on Liselotte Neumann’s European dozen at Colorado Golf Club starting Friday.
Michelle Wie understands that, and she can’t wait to take the field for her third turn as a member of Team USA.
"Solheim Cup means the world to me," Wie, who cried such enormous tears of joy upon learning she’d made the team that her contact lenses popped out, told reporters on Wednesday. "When I walk up on that first tee ... I'm representing my country, I'm representing my girls on my team, I'm representing playing for my captains, my co‑captains and everything it means to be American."
Wie’s tournament record of late, which includes six missed cuts and a withdrawal from the U.S. Women’s Open in 17 events this season, indicates why some observers considered the captain’s pick a controversial one. The 23-year-old’s unconventional putting stance, which has Wie bent over at the waist, only fuels the debate.
"I see nothing good about it," Golf Channel analyst and World Golf Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said of Wie's posture back in March.
For Mallon, who reiterated that choosing Wie was a "no-brainer," the former pre-teen phenom’s comfort on the international stage is as important a factor as her ability to strike a golf ball.
"She lives on this stage almost every day that she plays," Mallon said. "So walking into this environment is not going to affect her. I needed another player like that on the team. I had three rookies already."
While Mallon enters the competition confident that Wie will help the U.S. regain the cup that the Euros claimed two years ago, this week could do wonders for the golfer herself.
"It’s really corny, but I kept thinking that this was my Greg Norman-Adam Scott moment," Mallon told GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell, a reference to Norman helping turn a struggling Scott into the reigning Masters champ by picking him for the Presidents Cup team four years ago.
"I just feel like I believe in her so much, and believe in the player she is, and the person she is," Mallon said. "And that, hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for her."
Wie’s story has been well-documented -- from her much-hyped explosion onto the golf scene at age 10, to questionable decisions about playing in PGA Tour events and critics blasting her for failing to live up to her potential.
Also chronicled was how Wie came into her own as a debatable pick by captain Beth Daniel for the 2009 Solheim Cup team. Wie went undefeated (3-0-1) and, egged on by Christina Kim, made fast friends of her teammates, won over new fans, and had the time of her life.
Anyone who watched Wie get the David Feherty treatment last year saw a young woman at ease with herself and enjoying life outside the ropes. One of her recipes for happiness is to avoid the barbs and brickbats for which she’s become a target.
"I’m still trying to figure it out," Wie, who, along with Brittany Lincicome and Solheim rookies Lexi Thompson and Gerina Piller, will sit out the Friday morning foursome matches, said. "Just still like anyone who is young ... but the one thing I do religiously is just stay away from everything. I don’t read anything. I don’t watch anything.
"But when I do come across something, it’s hard sometimes," Wie acknowledged. "It’s not easy. I’m not going to lie and say that it’s rainbows and sunshine every day. It’s tough being a professional golfer, but it comes with the territory ... I just love the game, I love playing, and that’s what I really focus on. Weeks like this, it reminds me how much I love playing golf."
As for her "table-top" putting posture, Wie said it alleviated her discomfort with being too tall to putt, pointing to her results since adopting the unorthodox stance.
Indeed, they have improved dramatically -- from a 119th ranking in putting last year to 56th in 2013.
"I think that if you walked up to any professional golfer and you ... give them a choice between looking cool and making putts, I’m pretty sure everyone’s going to say, 'making putts,'" Wie said.