Michelle Wie teed off yesterday on the 15th hole during the third round of the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif.
Wie turns it around to stay in contention
She is five strokes behind the leader entering the final championship round
PALM DESERT, Calif. » Just three holes in and already 3 over for her round, Michelle Wie's chance of winning her first professional golf tournament was on the verge of disappearing into the California desert.
Impatience got Wie into the mess she was in. The important thing is that she realized it and was able to do something about it. Wie, who began the day tied for second at 9 under, frittered away one stroke with a three-putt bogey at the second, and two more shots at the par-5 third with a butchered 3-wood and a three-putt double bogey.
But the 16-year-old calmed down in time to remain in contention entering the final round of the $850,000 Samsung World Championship. The remainder of her day included four birdies and no bogeys en route to a 1-under 71 that dropped her into third.
Wie's 10-under 206 left her five shots behind defending champion Annika Sorenstam. The world's top female golfer shot a blistering 66 yesterday for a 54-hole total of 15-under 201. Gloria Park is second at 11 under for the tournament.
Wie was set to tee off in today's final round at 5:35 a.m. Hawaii time with Catriona Matthew of Scotland, who is tied with Cristie Kerr for fourth at 9 under.
"I played pretty stupid," Wie said. "The third hole was pretty stupid. I could have easily made a birdie if I had laid it up. I decided to take my 3-wood out there."
OK. Messed up. One snap and clear, as June Jones would say. Now what?
"I was talking to (caddie) Greg (Johnston), and I was like, I'm going to try to shoot 10 under par. I'm going to at least try to shoot under par today."
The comeback began on the 157-yard par-3 sixth. She hit a 7-iron to 9 feet, and made her only birdie on the front side. Now she could finally start keeping score.
"After the first birdie I felt good. I didn't want to write anything on my scorecard until I made a birdie. My scorecard was blank until the par 3," she said. "I think that's good if I'm not writing it down on my scorecard. It didn't make me realize I was 3 over par."
Wie almost headed back in the wrong direction at the seventh. Her second shot on the par 5 went off to the left and resulted in an unplayable lie. This time there was no birdie chip-in from 75 feet like the day before (after an unplayable lie), merely a 15-foot putt to save par.
Things didn't go as smoothly for Wie's playing partner, Grace Park. She began the day with the lead, but fell apart at the harmless-looking par-3 eighth. Her misadventure involved the wrong side of a 30-foot rocky embankment and a 50-yard shot to the green from a fairway belonging to a different hole. It ended with a quadruple-bogey 7, effectively knocking Park out of contention.
Wie parred in to finish the front nine at 2-over 38 as she prepared to attack the back.
"After the nine holes, I came up to my mom. I said, 'I'm going to shoot 10 under par (for the tournament),' and I am really glad that I did,'" Wie said.
She misjudged her 3-wood second shot at the 508-yard 12th, but it didn't hurt her, thanks to a nice chip and a 15-foot putt for birdie. She also birdied the second par 5 on the back nine. She decided not to go for the green on her second shot at the 538-yard 15th, laying up with a 6-iron instead. A 60-yard lob wedge left her a tap-in for birdie and even for the round. She knocked in a 15-footer for birdie at the closing hole to reach her goal of 10 under for the tournament.
"I think I can win," Wie said when asked if she can make up five strokes on Sorenstam.
Maybe Wie can. But it will likely take something spectacular, the way Sorenstam is playing. Wie also has to contend with Gloria Park, who shot a solid 68 yesterday and will be Sorenstam's playing partner in the final group.
But the real target is Sorenstam, the player who has dominated women's golf this century. The LPGA money leader and four-time winner here birdied four of the last five holes yesterday to solidify the lead.
"I know she is a great player," Wie said. "She is more than capable of doing that. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to do something like that."