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SOUTHERN PINES, North Carolina – Michelle Wie West hadn’t been back to this area since she won the U.S. Women’s Open eight years ago, and well, the memories didn’t exactly come flooding back.
“I walked in Pinehurst Village this morning to get coffee,” she said. “Funny enough, I don’t remember anything about the week. It just looked like I walked for the first time. I didn’t recognize it at all.”
Driving by Pinehurst No. 2, where she won, Wie West commented that it looked like a cool course. She had no idea it was the course that made her a major champion.
“I think I just blacked out that week,” she said with a laugh.
Michelle Wie West decides on how to play a bunker shot during a practice round at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)
Wie West met with reporters ahead of the 77th U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles. Last week she told Golfweek that this would be her last event of the season. That she’s planning to step away from the LPGA, returning in 2023 only for the historic Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. She stopped short of calling it a retirement.
“This week I’m just soaking it all in,” she said. “Just seeing all the fans, seeing all the players, walking the walk. It’s pretty cool.”
If Wie West remembers little of 2014, it’s probably for the best, since the last time she played at Pine Needles, it didn’t end well. In 2007, Wie West withdrew from the tournament citing wrist pain after 27 holes. She was 17 over par.
Now a wife and mom, she will move on to her next chapter with five LPGA titles and no regrets. She’s especially proud of the resiliency she has shown over the course of many injuries and a host of controversial decisions, mostly regarding her time teeing it up against the men.
As Wie West prepares her exit, Annika Sorenstam returns to an LPGA major stage for the first time in 13 years. The 10-time major winner earned her exemption into Pine Needles by winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2021.
“I remember her swing was really very powerful,” said Sorenstam of early memories playing against Wie West, “especially her wedge game. She put a lot of spin on the ball, and being 6-foot something like that, I was, like, wow, this girl has got it.
“She still had a great career in many ways. Maybe other people thought she would do more, but it’s hard to win out here. She won a U.S. Open, as you know, and other events. She’s been great for the game.”
Michelle Wie West checks her yardage book during a practice round at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)
Certainly, no player on tour right now has been more of a household name than Wie West.
“I had someone come up to me at player dining today saying that they were named after me,” Wie West said, “so that made me feel really young.”
That has happened often to Sorenstam over the years. In fact, a young woman walking with her on Tuesday at Pine Needles was named Annika, born in 1996, the year Sorenstam won a U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles.
“What a great honor that is,” said Sorenstam.
One reserved for the truly exceptional.