Michelle Wie teed off on the second hole during yesterday's opening round of the LPGA Championship in Havre de Grace, Md.
Wie gets it going
It takes a while, but the Punahou teen begins sinking putts on her way to a 1-under-par 71
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. » Just when it seemed the wheels were coming off the Michelle Wie bandwagon, she started to roll and finished with a flourish in the first round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
Wie birdied three of the final four holes and shot 1-under-par 71 at Bulle Rock Golf Course, where she was second in 2005 playing as an amateur in this second women's major championship of the year.
The 16-year-old Punahou School student very nearly had four consecutive birdies, burning the edge of the cup at No. 17 before settling for par.
"The last four holes seemed like I was back to normal," said Wie, who trailed leader Nicole Castrale of Palm Desert, Calif., by seven strokes. "Hopefully, tomorrow morning I can keep that going."
Perhaps her best shot of the day was her approach at No. 18, where she stiffed it 3 feet from the pin, then popped in the birdie putt to put an exclamation point on her comeback.
Wie said she felt she was playing well all afternoon, but that she just couldn't get anything going until near the end. She laughingly said she felt like yanking her hair out after a double bogey at the fifth hole.
"I feel good about myself that I hung through and I really fought through the round," she said. "Some shots didn't go the way I wanted, but I feel like I held on and my hair's still in, so I'm happy."
Wie wasn't pleased earlier in the round when putting problems continued to plague her, leaving her unable to capitalize on a number of birdie chances her ballstriking created.
She needed 32 putts to complete her round.
"She probably left four or five shots out there," said David Leadbetter, her instructor. "The greens are still a little new to her. She hasn't putted on them since last year. She has a good putting stroke. I think she'll putt well this summer. She's putting better than last year."
Wie also experienced putting woes Monday during U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit N.J., where she tied for 59th playing against 152 men. She shot 1-over-par 143 and did not earn a berth in next week's U.S. Open.
Punahou's Michelle Wie has finished in the top 10 more times than not in her nine LPGA major tournaments.
At Bulle Rock, on the first hole, her birdie putt missed the cup by an inch. She made par. That pattern continued much of the day.
She had legitimate birdie chances on a number of holes before her final run. But she only managed to make birdie at No. 9 before her big push.
Wie dropped back to 2-over when she rimmed out a 2-foot par putt at the par-3 12th hole.
Her scored stayed at 2-over until she ignited her rally with a short birdie putt at No. 15. She sank a 6-footer at the 16th hole to get back to even.
She noted that the Bulle Rock greens are tricky and that she had some "weird" putts.
"I didn't have like uphill putts every time," she said. "I feel like I've been stroking the ball where I want to. But I think my putting is getting better. It's getting there."
Because she hits the ball so far, she'd like to make birdies regularly on the par-5s. But No. 15 was the only one of Bulle Rock's par-5s she birdied.
"It was just one of those things that she got off to a slow start," Leadbetter said. "She had some excellent opportunities and just couldn't take advantage. She hit some good putts that didn't go in."
This is Wie's 10th appearance in an LPGA major championship.
She has five top-10s, including a tie for third at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year's first major, in April.
Wie played yesterday with Dorothy Delasin of San Francisco and Scotland's Mhairi McKay. Delasin was one of three players to shoot 67. McKay finished at 77.
Pat Hurst and Cristie Kerr were tied at 66.
Wie likely will move up the leaderboard if she can carry over her exceptional play on yesterday's final four holes into today's round. She was to play early this morning.
She can count on the crowd being behind her.
"The crowds were very supportive today, even though it was not quite as huge as Monday," she said. "They stayed until the end. So I was very happy."
Wie next will compete in the U.S. Women's Open Championship June 29-July 2 at Newport (R.I.) Country Club. It is the third of the year's four majors.
She plans to play the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship July 6-9 in Gladstone, N.J. She'll follow that with the July 13-16 John Deere Classic, a PGA Tour event in Silvis, Ill., and the LPGA's Evian Masters July 26-29 in Paris.
She also is scheduled to tee it up Aug. 3-6 in the Weetabix Women's British Open, the fourth major of the year, in Lancashire, England.
That event will conclude Wie's pro schedule for the summer.
Once she starts her junior year at Punahou, she will compete in four more professional tournaments, including three against men, before the end of the year.
All in good time.
First, she has three more rounds at Bulle Rock.
"She certainly hasn't kicked herself out of the tournament by any means," Leadbetter said. "All in all, no real damage done. She finished strong and that made her feel good."