Wie bulks up in bid for cut

Associated Press
Published January 12, 2006

HONOLULU - For a girl with such grandiose dreams, even Michelle Wie thought the bar was set too high.

It was one of her first exercises late last year with Paul Gagne, a fitness guru who spends most of his time with hockey players, and the task was a simple pullup. Wie jumped to grab the bar, and her 6-foot frame dangled in the air for a few seconds before she tried to lift herself. She barely moved a few inches.

When the workout was over, Wie said she was so sore she couldn't lift her arms to wash her hair in the shower.

"It was way too painful," she said. "My New Year's resolution is to cut down on sugar and not be as lazy. That means going to the gym a lot more. My goal is to get fit, get stronger and prevent injury."

Her ultimate goal remains the same: to play golf against the best in the world.

The next chance comes today in the Sony Open, the first full-field event on the PGA Tour where Wie has become a regular fixture. It will be her seventh time competing against the men and fourth on the PGA Tour as she tries to become the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make the cut.

But the junior at nearby Punahou School no longer emphasizes getting to the weekend. The older she gets, the less she pays attention to results and more on hitting the right shots.

How does she measure success?

"If at the end of the week I felt good about the week, I had a lot of fun and I played as hard as I can," she said.

Her newfound dedication to fitness is one example of Wie seeing a bigger picture.

Swing coach David Leadbetter said her upper body strength was woefully lacking, and he brought in Gagne for help. In the past few months, he said Wie has increased her ball speed about 5 mph to 161 mph, which he compared favorably with the 166 mph ball speed of Justin Rose.

Wie has added about 8 pounds of muscle, which Leadbetter says has given her more strength to hold the club in the proper position at the top of the swing.

"Look at what strength training did for Annika (Sorenstam)," Leadbetter said. "Michelle tended to shy away from it. But once we pointed out the benefits, it's a full program she has to work on. When you've got the talent she has, it's a matter of getting your ducks in a row. She's game for it. She's starting to enjoy it."

Even so, Wie will be measured this week by the scores on her card and whether she finishes among the top 70 players and ties over the first two rounds.

The defending champion is Vijay Singh, and the field includes three-time Mercedes Championships winner Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir, David Toms and Adam Scott.

Scott finished behind her two years ago and paid dearly. When he got to Bay Hill, swing coach Butch Harmon had plastered pictures of Wie inside his locker.

"It's a big week for us, a big week for me," Scott said with a smile. "Two years ago she almost made it. If she putts really well, she can make the cut."

Three players at the Sony Open have never played a PGA Tour event, having earned their way through qualifying school. Wie already has played four tour events and dozens of rounds at Waialae getting ready for this week.