LPGA star Michelle Wie back in the Bay Area and playing her best golf 

click to enlarge Michelle Wie
  • Eugene Tanner/ap file photo
  • Michelle Wie comes to the Bay Area fresh off an LPGA victory last week.
DALY CITY — As a 13-year-old, Michelle Wie made an instant impact when she played in the final group of the Kraft Nabisco Championship — one of the LPGA Tour’s five major championships.

Shortly after that impressive performance — where she wowed the gallery with her 300-yard drives — Wie was hailed as the best thing to ever hit the LPGA. and she was paid like it, signing endorsements deals with Nike and Sony totaling approximately $10 million a year.

Wie played like a star worth the worldwide attention she received, finishing in the Top 5 six times in her first 12 majors. By the time Wie was 16, she was ranked as the third-best golfer on the LPGA circuit, behind Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer.

But that’s where Wie’s career started to spiral downhill.

After winning her first LPGA event in 2009, and another in 2010, the teenage star started dealing with injuries. She battled a broken wrist, a severe ankle sprain and a bulging disc in her back — as well as some critics who called her a “bust.”

“Everyone has their own opinion,” Wie said. “Obviously, I’m not perfect. I do get angry but at the same time, I think saying stuff while you’re angry in the public, stays forever.”

At 24, Wie enters this week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club on a high.

She went 79 tournaments without a single victory, but this past weekend back in her home state of Hawaii, Wie rallied from a four-stroke deficit to win the LPGA LOTTE Championship — her first LPGA victory ever on American soil and third career title.

“I was just like ‘wow, like this is actually happening,’” Wie said. “Actually still seems pretty surreal to me. The back nine, everything clicked together at the right time. It was awesome.”

Being loose and at ease has helped Wie lead the LPGA in a slew of categories this season, including scoring average (69.57), and greens hit in regulation (81 percent).

She also leads the tour in money won at $661,555.

Now, she’s playing some of the best golf of her career and this week she gets to ride her momentum in an area she called home for five years.

Wie graduated from Stanford in 2012 with a degree in communications.

“I really feel like the Bay Area is my second home [and home to] some of the best memories I have from my life,” Wie said. “I’ve always told people I think the best five years of my life were spent here in the Bay Area.”

Despite being ecstatic to be back in the Bay Area, Wie hasn’t forgotten about her struggles.

She’ll never forget the negative attention that would’ve broken most teens dealing with the high-scrutiny spotlight she was under. Wie is simply thankful for the road she’s been on.

“I’m really grateful for all the ups and downs I’ve had and I feel like that’s what make me who I am today,” she said. “I think without those downs, I wouldn’t appreciate [last weekend’s] win as much as I did.”

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Bonta Hill

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