Reuters - Fri, 25 Jun 07:46:00 2010
Michelle Wie is going to fulfill those great expectations, though it probably will not be this week at the LPGA Championship, coach David Leadbetter said.
The tight, tree-lined Locust Hill Country Club course serves as "handcuffs" on her big-hitting game, the swing guru told Reuters as he walked alongside Wie's group during the first round of the second women's major of the year.
Leadbetter said Wie's talent will shine through once she commits her full focus on golf, yet he believes her brilliance may be on display for only a short time since he suspects she might pack it in by age 30.
"She's really swinging the club well and playing lots of tournaments now," Leadbetter said during her opening round of even-par 72 that put her four strokes off the pace. "She plays better when she gets more consistent playing time.
"But I don't know if it will be evidenced here this week. This course is kind of fiddly for her. She can only use driver four or five times and the fairways are narrow and the rough high. It's a little like playing with handcuffs on.
"But I expect her to break out at any time."
Wie made noise amid the professionals as a 13-year-old when she cracked the top 10 at the Kraft-Nabisco major in 2003. She posted six more top-10s in majors before she turned 17.
But she has struggled since, not getting back into a Majors top 10 since the 2006 US Women's Open as she juggles her time between serious golf and serious studies at Stanford.
Now 20, the 6-foot-1 (1.85m) Hawaiian of Korean descent is returning to a full college load as a senior in September.
"She's very happy these days. She just got a little dog, a Pomeranian mix she named Lola," the coach said. "She's happy with her life.
"She has all the talent in the world. It's up to her what she wants to do in the world of golf."
Leadbetter, who helped Briton Nick Faldo restructure his swing on his way to six major titles, said it will come down to whether Wie decides to dedicate herself to the game.
Wie has varied interests, including her communications major and a passion for clothing design and cooking.
"It will get interesting when she is finished with school.
It's hard to be number one at something when you're a part-time player," he said. "If you want to be number one you have to give it your all.
"If Nick Faldo had kept a schedule like her, you would never have heard of him."
Leadbetter said only time would tell Wie's story in golf, but expected she would set limits on her immersion.
"She is strong willed, strong minded," he said. "I don't think you'll see her play past 30."