Golf: Michelle Wie readies US Open defence as world No. 1 Park In Bee lurks

Michelle Wie looks on at the 10th hole during the fourth and final round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
Michelle Wie looks on at the 10th hole during the fourth and final round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. PHOTO: AFP

LANCASTER, United States (AFP) - Michelle Wie believes she is returning to form at the right time as she prepares to defend her US Women's Open crown on Thursday in the face of a challenge from revitalised world number one Park In Bee.

Wie, who is playing in her 12th Open at the age of just 25, has endured a difficult year in the 12 months since she clinched her first Major title with a two-stroke win at Pinehurst last year.

Illness and injury have wreaked havoc with the Hawaiian's season, with a throat and sinus infection disrupting her play along with a hip injury that has left her still awaiting a top-10 finish.

She said: "It's definitely been a tough year with my game. It's definitely not been as good as I want to be. I've been struggling with a couple of injuries and illnesses.

"But at the same time, I'm taking it day-by-day. Every day feels better than the day before. I'm definitely feeling better than I have been before.

"It feels good. I'm staying positive and just trying to improve a little bit here and there every day."

The demanding 6,400-yard Lancaster Country Club layout in Pennsylvania could end up playing to Wie's strengths off the tee and on the putting green.

Added Wie: "I think it's a great golf course. It's a great layout. You definitely have a good mix of holes where you have long irons into some holes, you have very long par-threes."

She noted how she has also drawn inspiration from the US victory in the Women's World Cup at the weekend, saying the 5-2 thrashing of Japan had buoyed US players readying for September's Solheim Cup.

"It was pretty amazing. I was pretty stoked on that, especially how the game went," Wie said. "Really great motivation, especially this year being the Solheim year. We definitely looked to them for inspiration and motivation ... It definitely gave me goose bumps."

If Wie is to defend her crown she will likely have to overcome a stern challenge from two-time champion Park, who returned to the top of the world rankings last month after claiming victory in the Women's PGA Championship.

Park, who has six majors in her career haul of 15 LPGA victories, said she is more relaxed about regaining her world number one status after twice reaching the pinnacle of the women's game before.

She said: "It's my third time being here, I don't feel that much pressure anymore. I feel like No. 1 or 2 - what's the difference? "I'm just playing good golf and I don't need to show anybody anything. I just try to play my own golf and just not try to do something for other people."

The 26-year-old South Korean admitted she invariably raised her game during Majors.

"I definitely really do care about the major championships. When I come to major championships, I work extra hard and I try to look at the course a little bit better."

Former world number one Lydia Ko meanwhile is aiming to atone for her disappointment the PGA Championship when she missed her first cut on the LPGA Tour after qualifying for the weekend in 53 consecutive events.

"Obviously I was really excited for that week, disappointed with the way it ended on a Friday," said the Kiwi. "I just kind of have to forget about it, just be excited again."