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The time has come, as Michelle Wie West readies to conclude career at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – This wasn’t Valhalla 2000, when Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus played in the first two rounds of the PGA Championship, which was a proverbial passing of the torch as Jack’s last PGA and Tiger’s third consecutive major win.

This was just a casual encounter with a mentor and a mentee crossing paths, one done talking to the media and another about to begin.

But when Michelle Wie West and Rose Zhang stopped to hug and briefly chat on Tuesday at the U.S. Women’s Open, there was a tinge of nostalgia.

If anyone has a sense of what it’s like to be Rose Zhang, it’s Michelle Wie West. But even Zhang can’t comprehend what it was like to be Wie West.

The Wie hype in the early to mid-2000s was a you-had-to-have-been-there thing to appreciate. As she happily points out now, “I was … fortunate that social media was not a thing when I was 14 and there was no world of TikTok. I can’t imagine the TikToks that would have come out the week of Sony Open.”

She still endured endless scrutiny, from playing against the men to her relationship with her parents to her swing changes to unfortunate incidents on the course to her multitude of injuries to … the big one … her inability to meet massive expectations.

Wie West finished her career with five LPGA wins and one major title, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.

“Finished” isn’t entirely accurate. At least not until she concludes this week’s USWO at Pebble Beach.

This is it. The last one, according to the 33-year-old. “I’m going to put my clubs in the darkest corner of my garage,” she said.

She’s been eyeing this event for some time now. Pine Needles, site of last year’s championship, would have been the perfect place to go out, so near to Pinehurst where she won her lone major.

But a Pebble Beach Open is the ultimate. And, for Wie West, this will be her ultimate event.

She’d love to play more, she said, especially as her 3-year-old daughter, Makenna, is starting to take interest in the game.

“I really, really wanted to play longer. I really wanted to – especially after having Makenna and her being a girl, I really wanted to play longer,” Wie West said. “In an ideal world I wish I was still out on Tour and playing.

“Unfortunately, it’s just I had to make a hard decision with my body. It is hard. It is hard to be a mom out here. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. I just had to make a hard, medical body decision and also a personal decision.”

Some – perhaps many – will view Wie West’s career as disappointing, as anything less than redefining the game being unacceptable.

But she did change the women’s game. She increased its exposure, more so than anyone with five times her titles could have ever done. And the LPGA could really use some of that transcendence right now.

“I think it just needs more eyeballs. I think it’s getting better, but I think the primetime TV is really helping. We need more articles. When I’m looking on social media, it was sometimes, even during majors, you don’t really even know it’s a major, whereas if the men are playing in any sort of major, in any elevated event, it’s just saturated,” she said.


Full-field tee times from the U.S. Women’s Open


Weeks like this help and the promise of a player like Zhang does as well. Wie West can help, too. She said she wants to stay connected to the game – she is already a tournament host – and wants to “do everything in my power to keep empowering the women, closing the pay gap, whether it’s in sports and out of sports.”

When asked to describe her legacy in word, Wie West chose:

“Bold. Made a lot of bold choices in my career, and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of being fearless at times and just doing what felt right,” she said.

“I hope that I inspire a lot of other girls to make bold and fearless decisions and choices in their careers, as well.”

Her career has a few rounds remaining – four, she hopes. And then? She’s not really sure. She’s been pointing to this week for so long that, now that it’s here, she doesn’t know what to target in the future.

The life she knew is not the life she now knows.

“When you’re a professional athlete, the highs are so high, and the lows are so low. Honestly, for the past year, I haven’t felt that highs of high, but I also haven’t felt the lows of low,” she said.

“It’s strange. It’s strange to have every day be somewhat mundane. You go out there and you eat three meals, you take care of your daughter, and at night you watch Netflix. It’s just every day is OK.”

“But,” she said, “I have Pebble.”