A promising first day for the British and Irish contingent at Ana Inspiration was overshadowed by the remarkable return of Michelle Wie West, the awe-inspiring ex-wife who returned to competition after a two-year absence.
Wie West is famous tied for ninth at this event as a 13-year-old amateur and 18 years later, back as a mother, the Hawaiian has shown she still has the star’s appeal for light up the first major of the season.
Nothing about its re-emergence at the Kia Classic last week to suggest it would make the Mission Hills standings. She shot 81-74 and seemed devoid of the scale of the challenge she faced after maternity leave and extremely close contact with the pensioner.
But on the course that has helped establish her as a prodigy so much, Wie West has stepped back the years to show two under-70s to place in the top 20, four behind the pace set by Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit.
“I’m just happy to see my name on the first page of the leaderboard,” said Wie West. “It’s really special to me. It’s been a long time since I saw this. I have a lot of good memories, the first from 18 years ago.
Wie West – who finished second at Ana in 2014, the same year she won her only major to date, the US Women’s Open – has revealed how close she is to putting her clubs away for good. In 2018, she underwent wrist surgery, married Golden State Warriors director of basketball operations Jonnie West – son of NBA legend Jerry West – and thought a career that was ridiculously excited for imitating that of Tiger Woods, but which had inevitably fallen short had stung to its end.
“I thought I was done, especially when I found out I was pregnant,” she said. “I thought it cemented him. Then we found out Makenna would be a girl and that changed everything. I started to think I wanted to show him in real time that I was playing golf. It’s one thing to make him watch YouTube videos, and it’s another thing to make him watch you with his own eyes and see you working hard. It has been one of my huge dreams.
Of course, it will take a few more years for Makenna – born last June – to figure out what her mother is doing, but Thursday’s heroism suggested that Wie West retain the ability if hunger is present.
“It’s weird,” Wie West said of memories from 2003. “You know, looking back, I was a kid. I still feel like a kid. Having a baby definitely puts a different perspective on everything. I’m more excited to come home and see her than I am, to be honest.
Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Bronte Law all shot 69, with compatriot England Mel Reid on a sub. Ireland’s Leona Maguire is alongside China’s Shanshan Feng in second on five under.