DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rivals Morgan Pressel, above, and Michelle Wie shot identical scores in the first two rounds.
Pressel, Wie play together today
Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie had no idea they would be paired together in today's final round of the Fields Open in Hawaii as they practiced their putting in front of the clubhouse last night at Ko Olina Resort.
As darkness descended on the few fans watching the talented twosome avoid each other with practiced precision, word came down that these future LPGA Tour titans would be playing the final 18 together with veteran Sherri Turner.
It's unlikely either will come out of the pack to hoist the trophy later today, but it could be the first of many pairings these two will share through the years as they prepare for their careers on the LPGA Tour.
Pressel practiced putting with her grandfather, Herb Krickstein, and reacted strongly to any and all putts that didn't find the bottom of the cup. Wie was a little more calm as she worked on her putting stroke with her mom and dad, but no one shared a Kodak moment as the sun faded from view.
The 17-year-old Pressel exited the green first as she continued to sign autographs deep into the day. When told she would be paired with Wie, a light came on in her eyes.
"It should be fun," Pressel said. "Obviously, there will be a big crowd watching and it should be fun. It's no big deal. You can't act like it's a big deal."
Wie and Pressel have had their fair share of exchanges in their short careers. Pressel has questioned some of the exemptions Wie has received and also wondered out loud why anyone would pay her $10 million in endorsements with so few wins in her career.
Playing in front of Wie's home crowd should also prove challenging for Pressel. The galleries will be large and will likely be pulling for Wie.
"A lot of my family and friends come and watch me," Wie said after Thursday's opening round. "It's always great for them to support me like that. It boosts your confidence."
Pressel was in a group behind Wie through the first two rounds. Both teenagers shot 67 on Thursday and 70 yesterday as they find themselves in a tie for ninth at 7-under 137 some six shots off the pace.
"I was a little upset with the way I played golf today, I didn't hit the ball well," Pressel said. "I scrambled well today. I definitely saved my round with all the up-and-downs. It could have been real ugly."
Korean connection continues: As solid as the young Americans have been the past couple of years, they're still looking up at the kids from South Korea.
Last week, it was 21-year-old Joo Mi Kim stealing the show at the SBS Open. This week, it's Seon Hwa Lee who commandeered the leaderboard with a sterling 66 yesterday to complement the 65 she managed on Thursday.
"I have confidence to win this tournament," Lee said. "I won my first tournament in Korea. I set the record in Korea and everything, but I'm still confident and ready for tomorrow."
Kim said last week that if she won again she promised she would speak English instead of Korean. She got to thinking about that earlier this week and was afraid she wouldn't be able to deliver the goods.
At this point, she's tied for 30th at 4 under for the tournament. It's unlikely she'll have to worry about winning back-to-back weeks, but Kim proved she's capable of winning at this level. She is tied with fellow Korean Jeong Jang, who tried to throw her in the lake last week. Jang is best known for winning the Women's British Open last year.
Inside the numbers: The scoring average for yesterday's round was 71.400, down a bit from 71.636 on Thursday. The hardest hole was the par-4 18th with an average of 4.227. There were only seven birdies, 93 pars, 27 bogeys and five doubles. The easiest hole was the par-5 14th at 4.621. There were 53 birdies, 76 pars and three bogeys.