CHASKA (Minnesota) • Arthritic wrists kept Michelle Wie out of competition for two months before this week's Women's PGA Championship. She resumed hitting golf balls only a week before tackling the host course, Hazeltine National Golf Club, preparation that she acknowledged was far from ideal.
But after struggling to a 12-over 84 in Thursday's first round, Wie, one of the most prominent players in women's golf, was forced to confront an even harder truth.
"I'm not entirely sure how much more I have left in me," the 29-year-old American said, choking back tears. "So even on the bad days, I'm just like trying to take time to enjoy it. But it's tough, I just love being out here."
She had played the last few holes applying an ice pack to her right wrist between shots to numb the pain.
Grouped with former world No. 1 Lydia Ko and Minjee Lee, Wie started on the 10th hole with a bogey, and then had two more bogeys to go with two double bogeys and two birdies on her first nine. Her final nine included three bogeys and a quadruple bogey, on the par-three eighth hole.
On a day when only 16 players broke par, Hannah Green of Australia shot a four-under 68 to take the first-round lead, a stroke ahead of Kim Hyo-joo and Melissa Reid.
STILL LOVING IT
I'm not entirely sure how much more I have left in me. So even on the bad days, I'm just like trying to take time to enjoy it. But it's tough, I just love being out here.
MICHELLE WIE, who at just 29 has battled a multitude of injuries for years but still retains a deep passion for the sport.
Ko, who carded a 71, said that Wie never sulked and never stopped saying "good shot" when one of the players in her group hit a drive long and straight or an approach close to the hole.
"She was positive," the New Zealander said. "She's such a fighter, and I think she's an amazing role model to many girls and boys, and I think she's showing that nothing is impossible."
This was the 281st LPGA start for Wie, who has five victories on the tour, including in the 2014 US Women's Open. She has spent more than half of her life in the spotlight, emerging at age 13 on the grandest stage in women's golf by playing her way into the last day's final group of the Major now known as the ANA Inspiration. She finished in a tie for ninth.
As a 15-year-old amateur in 2005, Wie nearly won the Women's PGA Championship. She finished second, three strokes behind Annika Sorenstam. In the ensuing 14 years, Wie's passion for the game has remained stout, but her back, hip, knees and wrists have broken down at various times.
She followed an unorthodox path in the sport, prioritising LPGA events over junior championships and periodically competing on the men's PGA Tour early in her career, and then entering college well after she had established herself as a professional golfer.
She earned a degree in communications from Stanford in 2012, and in March, she became engaged to Jonnie West, the Golden State Warriors' director of basketball operations and the son of Jerry West, the Hall of Fame basketball player.
Wie said that she had recently considered applying for a medical leave of absence and shutting down golf for the rest of the season but that she had been inspired to come back and play this week after watching the injury-hit Warriors' six-game loss to Toronto in the National Basketball Association Finals.
As a pro, she has earned nearly US$7 million (S$9.5 million) in prize money and much more than that in endorsements.
WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Day 3: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, tomorrow, 3am