Michael Whan will do just about anything to grow the LPGA Tour -- including donning a traditional Scottish kilt in the pro-am to commemorate this week’s inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco.
Last week’s Lotte LPGA Championship winner Michelle Wie has returned to her "second hometown" (the three-time tour champion attended nearby Stanford) for the contest and will join a healthy Suzann Pettersen and four other top-5 golfers in the world at Lake Merced Golf Club.
Second-ranked Pettersen, apparently channeling Tiger Woods, has missed three tournaments, including the Kraft Nabisco Championship, while nursing a bad back.
"I was trying to make it for Hawaii, but at the same time, I can’t rush something that I can’t control," said Pettersen. "Really makes you appreciate what you can do. It’s nice to get dressed yourself."
Wie, who may be courting her own future back problems with her "table top" putting stance, ended a four-year winless drought with a two-shot victory over Angela Stanford in her home state of Hawaii. She arrived back on the mainland earlier this week and paid an emotional visit to her alma mater on Monday.
"It was awesome," Wie told reporters ahead of the tour’s return to the Bay Area for the first time since 2010. "I went to go visit the golf team at their practice facility and just hung out with them. I walked around campus and wanted to hug every single freshman I saw because I wanted to be them."
Wie, who said during a conference call with reporters following her Oahu victory that she planned someday to return to school for a graduate degree, eyed her possible future classrooms.
"I walked past the Graduate School of Business," she said, "and I was like, I want to go there one day."
In the meantime, the popular 24-year-old hopes her new-found consistency -- as well as the unusual putting approach that critics no longer scoff at -- will help her attain back-to-back victories. Her style, it turns out, is not unique, as a side-by-side comparison of her technique with that of Jack Nicklaus indicates (h/t Golf.com).
"I actually didn't see [the photo of Nicklaus’ bent-over putting position] before I changed, but after I changed, you know, I practice at the Bear's Club and there are pictures of Jack everywhere," said Wie, who clearly has better posture than the owner of 18 major titles. "I saw a picture of him like putting and I was like, ‘Oh, he is actually pretty low as well.’ I don't feel that bad anymore."
Wie is slated to go off the first tee at 1 p.m. PT with former No. 1, Stacy Lewis, and one of Time’s newly anointed most influential people and birthday girl, Lydia Ko.
About the Swinging Skirts Golf Team -- it’s a private, non-profit Taiwanese organization comprised of men and women amateur golfers who honor the game's traditions by wearing colorful kilts while playing. The LPGA event will spotlight top tour players as well as outstanding talent from Taiwan.
As for Whan’s tournament threads, we’re betting his dour counterpart on the PGA Tour would not have the, um, Srixons to make a similar fashion statement.