Michele Wie hopes a return to the French Alps will get her game back on track.
The 17-year-old Wie is back at the Evian Masters with her game, confidence and reputation in disarray. A year ago, the teenager from Hawaii closed with a 4-under 68 and finished in a tie for second. She hasn't broken par - anywhere - since.
"It's so good to be back here,'' she said Wednesday. "It's so nice, so beautiful, the people are so nice and I feel at home. It's been a really tough year this year.''
Wie has struggled with wrist injuries, and her last appearance was at the U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles four weeks ago, when she withdrew halfway through the second round.
Earlier in the season, she withdrew from the Ginn Tribute, citing a wrist injury, but then was seen practicing over the weekend. She received strong rebukes from Annika Sorenstam and LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens.
She has completed only seven rounds this year with an average score of just under 78. Since the final round at Evian last year, she's gone a total of 23 rounds without breaking par. Wie and her parents came to Evian early hoping for a change of fortune at the 72-hole event.
"I just want to be able to play as freely as I did last year, as happy as I did, no thoughts in my mind, just out there, me and the golf ball and the golf hole and the beautiful course and just to play,'' Wie said. "Just to be my 17-year-old self again, have no worries and hit the golf ball into the hole, and that's all I'm asking right now. I just want to be able to play a pain-free round, not hurt and be able to play very well.''
Last year, Wie led by two shots on the 12th tee in the final round, but Australia's Karrie Webb wound up winning by one shot ahead of Wie and Britain's Laura Davies.
Webb, who won twice in Australia at the beginning of the year but has been inconsistent since then, was sympathetic toward Wie
"I really feel badly for her,'' she said. "I think what people forget is that she is only 17, and too many people have been too hard on her. She's still probably the most athletically talented player in the field and has as much chance to be No. 1 - not necessarily at 17, perhaps at 25 or 30.''
Current No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, who has won three times already this year, leads the LPGA money list with $1,805,426. She has never finished worse than fifth here.
The field also includes this year's three major champions: Morgan Pressel of the United States, who won the Kraft Nabisco; Suzann Pettersen, the Norwegian who is the McDonald's LPGA champion; and U.S. Women's Open winner Cristie Kerr, another American.
The Koreans are here in force, with Seon Hwa Lee fresh from defeating Ai Miyazato of Japan in the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship last Sunday.
Sorenstam, who has won here twice, rated herself 85 percent fit as she recovers from injuries in her back and neck.
The field has been expanded to 90 players, and there will be a cut after two rounds for the first time since the event touted by many as the women's fifth major began in 1994.