Michelle Wie returns to action at the Evian Championship eyeing both a second career major title and an inaugural award named after retired Swedish great Annika Sorenstam.
She needs to get up to speed quickly following a finger injury, in the face of stiff competition.
The new Rolex Annika Major honors the player with the best overall record in the five majors this season. Wie, the U.S. Women’s Open champion, leads the Annika standings with 84 points going into the last major of the year.
But she has been out for nearly five weeks and missed four tournaments due to a stress reaction on her right index finger, forcing her withdrawal from the Meijer Classic early last month.
“I was in a splint for two weeks, and then the third week I tried to wean off of it, tried to move it around. I just started really putting and chipping last week, and started hitting balls (four) days ago,” Wie said. “Hopefully, I won’t play with Lexi (Thompson) and she won’t outdrive me by 50 yards.”
Thompson, who beat Wie to win the Kraft Nabisco, and former Evian champion Inbee Park of South Korea, are also in contention for the Annika award. Park goes for back-to-back majors after defending her title at the LPGA Championship, and is 10 points behind Wie, while Thompson is 16 adrift.
With a win worth 60 points, others, including defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway and top-ranked Stacy Lewis of the United States, can overtake Wie.
“As soon as I heard that we’re going to have this award, this has definitely been one of my biggest goals,” Wie said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t play so well at the British and had to miss the last major, so I’m really thankful that there’s a fifth major.”
The 19-year-old Thompson has “always looked up to” Sorenstam, who won 10 majors.
American players won three of the four majors, but British Open champion Mo Martin has a thumb injury and won’t tee off on Thursday on the 6,476-yard course offering spectacular views over Lake Geneva.
Pettersen, meanwhile, eyes a third career major. Although tied for second at the British Open, she faded at the LPGA after a poor final round and missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
There are two teenagers the field will also be keeping an eye on.
Minjee Lee, 18, of Australia, makes her professional debut after featuring in six U.S. LPGA Tour events as an amateur. The 17-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand, runner-up last year, has a last chance to win a trophy in her first year as a pro.
Wie, who turned pro when she was 15, knows about the pressures they face.
“I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “I’m turning 25 soon. I need to start wearing wrinkle cream.”
Last year’s tournament was blighted by soggy greens. But the course promises to hold up better.
“The greens are rolling perfectly. It’s been a short year with bad weather, and it’s absolutely unbelievable how great the golf course is playing,” Wie said. “Every time I come here it still takes my breath away, the lake, and everything.”