DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Hindered by injuries and tinkering with her swing, Michelle Wie is looking to turn her season around by ending on a high in Dubai.
The 22-year-old American has fallen to 17th in the rankings after spending much of 2010 in the top 10. And with only two second-place finishes this season, she called this year “a work in progress.”
“I had a couple of good finishes. But it is frustrating just because sometimes weeks didn't go my way, but at the same time you learn every week,” said Wie, who struggled with a back injury toward the end of 2010.
“Every week I gave it my all and as frustrated as I can be, I try to take a positive from it, and I feel like I improved quite a bit,” Wie said. “Whether or not my results show it or not, I'm feeling like I'm getting healthy again with my body. My body feels pretty good.”
Wie is among the biggest names at the Dubai Ladies Masters, the season-ending European Tour event which starts Wednesday. Lexi Thompson, the 16-year-old American who became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour in September, is expected to challenge alongside several top Europeans, including Anna Nordqvist and Sandra Gal.
Like Tiger Woods, Wie has responded to her poor performance with tweaks with her swing.
“I had a couple of swing changes, but just overall working on my game,” Wie said. “Obviously when you do try to work on something, the results sometimes don't come as quick as you want them to. But like I said, I worked on a lot of things this year, not particularly one in specific, but hopefully it'll pay off next year.”
Wie dismissed claims by Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam that her pursuit of a communications degree at Stanford University was hurting her game. She said she has always worked to balance school and golf and insisted she has even more time now to practice than she did in high school.
Since she was child, Wie has been in the spotlight for her golfing prowess. She became the youngest golfer to play a USGA Amateur Championship at 10 and, as a big-hitting teenager, decided to take on the men. However, she never made the cut at a PGA event and joined the LPGA in 2009, where she has won twice.
This year, Wie has often found herself overshadowed by No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng and more recently Thompson, who has become a media darling since her five-stroke victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic in September. That, however, hasn't seemed to be bother Wie, who insists she will be back on top.
“I haven't been playing very well this year. I shouldn't be getting the spotlight,” Wie said. “I need to start winning. I need to start getting into the spotlight that way.”
Thompson, for her part, said her victory has given her the confidence that “she can win” any tournament she enters. It also sparked a media frenzy that included a trip to New York where she met several movie stars, including members of the “Twilight” cast.
“I loved it, actually. I mean it was definitely a lot of attention, but you know, it was great,” Thompson said. “I got to meet a lot of pretty famous people, like Taylor Lautner, Jonah Hill. It was an amazing experience for me, and hopefully will continue.”
But Thompson, whose brother Nicholas plays on the PGA Tour, still seems well grounded. She still enjoys “hanging out with friends” at the beach at home in Coral Springs, Fla., and insisted they don't treat her any differently after her brushes with celebrities.
“I'm a normal teenager, besides that I made history,” she said. “But I love what I do, and I've worked so hard for it.”
The 53rd-ranked Thompson said she expects to play up to 20 tournaments next year, though she isn't setting any goals in terms of the numbers of victories or top 10 finishes.
“I'm definitely taking it slow. You just have to take it tournament by tournament,” she said. “I don't like to get ahead of myself. I always want to win, but you have to work really hard for that. There are amazing players out here, and the best in the world, so it's going to take a lot.”
With Japan's Ai Miyazato already securing the Tour's Order of Merit title, the other interesting battle is for second place between red-hot Swedish rookie Caroline Hedwall, who moved up to third place in the Money List after her impressive win last week in the Women's Indian Open, and second-ranked Melissa Reid of England.
Hedwall, who also won in Slovakia, Finland and Austria in her first full season on the Tour, will need to make up a gap of 12,183 euros. Reid has earned 280,578 euros in 18 starts in 2011.
Charlottetown's Lorie Kane is the lone Canadian in the field for the season-ending championship of the Ladies European Tour along with Britain's all-time great Laura Davies, Christina Kim, Sophie Gustafson and Anna Nordqvist.
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