NAPLES, Fla. (AP) – Michelle Wie’s final stroke of the season was a long putt from just off the green, and when it dropped, she couldn’t wait to retrieve the ball from the cup.
Her season, mercifully, was over.
Wie hasn’t won a tournament since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, and wasn’t even close this year. More than half the players on the LPGA Tour finished in the top 10 at least once this season, Wie not among them. She tied for 32nd at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship that ended Sunday, capping her showing with a 5-under 67 that was her best round in weeks.
“It was a frustrating season for sure,” Wie said. “After such a great season last year, it’s hard when you want to do well, you want to play well and then you just get injured and you get sick and you just can’t. I’m excited to just get to 100 percent.”
That process starts Tuesday, when she heads to Hawaii. She won’t hit another ball until 2016, not even in practice. Mentally, physically and perhaps even emotionally, Wie needs a break.
“I’m doing the same thing that I always do: Not going to touch a golf club until Jan. 2,” Wie said. “I’m going to really take that time to get my body right, get some rehab going, get some good workouts and just get my body to 100 percent. I really need that rest. I really need to not hit golf balls right now.”
The finish of her round Sunday showed both how close, and how far, she is from the LPGA’s elite right now.
Consider: Wie started on the back, so No. 9 was her finishing hole. The ninth green at Tiburon Golf Club is about 75 yards to the left of the 18th, where leaders were finishing before four filled banks of bleachers and a gallery of about 1,500 people. At the ninth, there was one set of bleachers and when Wie walked up they were occupied by a total of two people.
Wie has twice as many followers on Twitter than the actual LPGA Tour account does, so there’s no question that she’s good for business. But even with the LPGA touting growth, a comeback season for Wie in 2016 would surely help the tour’s cause.
“There’s no doubt that she carries a big Q score,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said. “I mean we saw it in Pinehurst. When she plays there’s an interest and the media follow is great. … That’s not an American phenomenon. Her gallery in Malaysia and Korea and Taiwan is just as impressive.”
As she waited to finish her season Wie took a peek at what was happening across the pond separating the two greens, then made her long putt and was the first in her group to head toward the scorers’ tent.
She wanted that card signed and her year over, as fast as possible.
“You have to end on a good note and keep that feeling going,” Wie said. “I’ll write to myself what I felt this week and kind of pick up where I left off.”