KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP
Michelle Wie is in second place at the Kraft Nabisco Championship after shooting a 1-under 71 in yesterday's second round.
Wie trails Ochoa by 4
Webb happy to be back in contention and the press room
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » The only real movement up the leaderboard during yesterday's cold and windy second round of the $1.8 million Kraft Nabisco Championship involved a player who knows all about being the best in the world. And no, it wasn't Annika Sorenstam.
Kraft Nabisco Championship
» Lorena Ochoa-11
» Michelle Wie-7
» Karrie Webb-6
» Seon Hwa Lee-6
» Paula Creamer-4
» Stacy Prammanasudh-4
» Today: ESPN2, noon
» Tomorrow: KGMB, 10 a.m.
While first-round leaders Lorena Ochoa and Michelle Wie needed only a pair of 71s to hold the top two positions in the first major championship on the LPGA Tour, former world No. 1 Karrie Webb moved into title contention with a 4-under 68.
Ochoa remained comfortably in first at 11-under 133, despite shooting nine shots worse than her record-setting opening round of 62 on Thursday. Wie held on to second at 7-under 135 and Webb grabbed a tie for third with South Korea's Seon Hwa Lee at 6-under 138 in conditions better-suited for the North Pole.
"First of all, it's nice to be back in here," Webb said to the media members gathered to hear her comments. "I haven't been in here for a while. But it was tough out there today, tougher than yesterday.
"And especially the last few holes, the wind picked up and it was sort of twirling from a few different directions. What I really felt pleased about is I put the ball in play most of the day and hit some good iron shots out there when the conditions were tough. I really trusted things."
That was difficult to do for the 70 golfers who survived the cut. Only 13 of those managed to finish in the red after 36 holes with the cut line coming at a whopping plus 6. Paula Creamer and Stacy Prammanasudh were tied for fifth at 4-under 140.
Current world No. 1 Sorenstam remained within shouting distance at 1-under 143 after she shot an even-par 72. But if she wants to win her 10th major championship, Sorenstam is going to have to get very busy over the weekend.
"Today my putter let me down a few times," Sorenstam said. "I fought really hard out there. I really tried. When I finally make a birdie, a bogey comes in. It takes 10 holes to make another birdie. It's a little tough at the moment. I feel I'm playing better, but nothing happens."
Lorena Ochoa picked up a stroke on her rivals when she birdied the fifth hole at Mission Hills Country Club yesterday.
Ochoa remained upbeat, despite facing some struggles of her own. The first-round leader knew she wasn't going to shoot 10 under for her round yesterday, especially with the conditions switching from benign on Thursday to bedeviling yesterday. At one point, she held a seven-shot lead on Wie, only to see it reduced to four by day's end.
"I played really good today," Ochoa said. "I felt I played good. It was harder today than it was yesterday. It's just the way it goes. The weather, it was very windy on the back nine. It was hard. So I'm really pleased with my 1 under. I really like my position. And like I said, I'm going to take one day at a time and just come back and enjoy a couple of more days."
Webb, who has six major championships of her own, knows all about playing with large leads. And she realizes that at times it's more difficult than trying to catch someone who is five shots in front.
"Well, when I made the turn today, Lorena was at 10 under and I was at 3," Webb said. "I think it's extremely hard to hold that large of a lead for three days. There's probably more pressure than the players chasing. I felt like if I got within five that I had a pretty good chance with two days to go. When you shoot 62, it's hard to go out the next day, even if you shoot 70, you feel like you've shot 80."
Wie was pleased with her round, despite not making up any distance on Ochoa. She began and ended the day four shots off the pace, but considering she played in the windy conditions the most because of teeing off last, she'll take the 71 that left her in second.
"I knew what I wanted to play in my mind," Wie said.
"I knew there were a lot of good birdie opportunities out there. I knew there were a lot of holes where I had to make par. I just tried to take one hole at a time. I felt like my tee shots were pretty solid, my iron shots were pretty solid, my putting was pretty solid. The two chip shots (that led to par saves) were pretty good. Overall, I feel my game is pretty solid."
And that kind of even keel could come in handy over the weekend, especially if the greens get fast and crusty, and the winds keep sweeping down the plains.
"You play this course like a major because it's really tough, especially if you don't hit the fairways," Ochoa said. "I think that's the key. In a major, five shots is nothing. I'm going to try to play smart out there and try not to be too aggressive. I'm playing good. I'm excited about the weekend."
BACK TO TOP
Two 4-foot par putts saved the busy Punahou student in a windy round of 1-under 71
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » Between having to finish her math homework and reading "The Great Gatsby," Michelle Wie found just enough time to fashion a grueling 1-under 71 yesterday before the sun set at chilly Mission Hills Country Club.
Playing in the final twosome with Ai Miyazato, Wie wasn't nearly as sharp as she was in the opening round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but considering the wintry, windswept conditions, she can be forgiven.
Despite leaving her 'A' game behind, the 16-year-old Punahou School student still played well enough to hold on to second in the first major championship on the LPGA Tour, trailing Lorena Ochoa by four shots.
The talented twosome will be joined by former world No. 1 Karrie Webb in today's final pairing as Wie tries to master the tricky Dinah Shore course that has allowed only 13 golfers to be under par at the midway point.
By the time Wie tapped in for par at the ninth (she started at No. 10), the Nike sweater she wore for most of the day did little to keep her teeth from chattering in the brisk breezes rolling out over the desert floor. By Hawaii's standards, it was 40 below, and even the longtime veterans of the Palm Springs area conceded it was unusual weather for March.
"The conditions were very tough today," Wie said to a large gathering of reporters clustered around her by the scorer's tent. As soon as Wie was done talking, she was whisked away to the putting green to practice before the sun disappeared from view.
"You just couldn't move up the leaderboard being this cold, for me, actually. With the conditions, it was very hard to shoot another 66 out there. So, I'm happy with the way I played today."
From the outset, it was clear Wie was not going to hit 16 fairways and 18 greens as she did on Thursday. She parred the first three holes, before a three-putt bogey from 25 feet above the hole at the par-4 13th left her at 5 under for the tournament. Wie walked up to the par-3 14th just as the pairing in front of her prepared to hit, leaving her stewing for 15 minutes as she stared straight ahead from the tee box.
Once she was cleared for takeoff, Wie hit another poor iron shot into the green, leaving her a long lag putt that went 4 feet past the hole. She knocked in the knee-knocker for par, much to the delight of her mother, Bo, who yelled, "Yes!" as the ball settled into the bottom of the cup.
As Wie walked to the 15th tee, she gave the lucky golf ball to a young girl sitting near the tee box. When the girl's father asked to see it, the 7-year-old pulled it away from him and clutched it close to her chest.
Considering how Wie played the 15th, she might have wanted that lucky ball back for safekeeping.
She found herself in similar conditions at the par-4 hole where she needed another 4-footer to save par, and perhaps the round. If those par putts had turned into bogeys, Wie might have dropped off the leaderboard, much like fellow teenager Morgan Pressel. She was 4 under for the tournament when a triple bogey on the 14th led to a disastrous 76 for the day.
"I think those two 4-foot putts were good for the momentum," Wie said. "I was very glad that I made those par putts because I was focused and I knew I had to make them. I'm very glad I did."
So much so, Wie had her first birdie of the day with an 8-footer at the par-4 16th and dropped to 7 under with a birdie at the par-5 second. She reached the green in two with a 7-iron and two-putted from 30 feet to pull within four shots of Ochoa. But she gave it right back with a three-putt bogey from 30 feet at No. 3.
"I looked at the leaderboard (at that point), but no one was really doing anything," Wie said. "I was out there playing my own game and trying to make par when I had to make par and trying to make birdie as often as I could. I just played my game."
It seemed to work well as she birdied the par-4 fourth from 20 feet to go back to 7 under for the tournament. She parred the remaining holes, including a chip off the par-3 eighth green from about 25 feet that caught the edge of the hole, but lipped out at the last.
"I thought it was going in (for birdie)," Wie said. "I was getting ready for my big fist pump. I was getting psyched up and it went left at the last second. I can't complain about that shot. It was a nice par."