EVIAN MASTERS GOLF
Michelle Wie is tied with Annika Sorenstam after the first round of the Evian Masters, three strokes behind Lorena Ochoa, Mi Hyun Kim and Shani Waugh.
Wie 3 back in France
An eagle on No. 18 gives Hawaii's teen phenom a 69 in the opening round of the Evian Masters
EVIAN, France » Two weeks ago, Michelle Wie was playing in the John Deere Classic trying to beat the men at their own game.
This week, the teen phenom is finding out that beating the best women might be a little harder.
Wie, who withdrew from the JDC in the second round because of heat exhaustion after playing just nine holes, fired a 3-under-par 69 in yesterday's opening round of the Evian Masters. But the 16-year-old found herself trailing Lorena Ochoa, Mi Hyun Kim and Shani Waugh by three strokes.
Today and tomorrow: Golf Channel, 1 p.m., tape delayed
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"My round was really good, just a few mistakes in the middle," said a smiling Wie. "The heat didn't bother me, I had my sun umbrella just in case, plus I drank a lot of Evian."
Wie is playing her third Evian Masters.
Last year she finished tied for second with Ochoa, eight shots behind Paula Creamer. In her first appearance Wie was 33rd. She felt "the course is playing well this year, it has been watered a lot with the hot weather, but the greens are good, not like last year after the hail. I am so excited to see how the 'browns' will look and be next week at Royal Lytham for the British Open."
"Summer is when I can play the most because of school and being restricted to taking time off," Wie said. "So I hope that now I can get some momentum going with more play, my focus is there, and win. Every tournament I tee off in, I want to win."
Blue skies, sunshine and heat greeted golf's leading 78 ladies for the 72 hole, no-cut invitational event.
This 13th edition is played at Evian Masters Golf Club's championship course (par 72, 6,283 yards) perched above Lake Geneva in the French Savoy. With prize money of $3 million it is the second-richest event in women's golf and has become the "fifth" major for the ladies.
Wie had three birdies and no bogeys on the front to make the turn at 33. She left the driver in the bag often and set up birdies using her 3-wood and 5-wood, then put it close with good wedge play.
Wie faltered on the return with two bogeys.
A errant 5-iron on the 207-yard 14th left her making three putts from 50 feet. Worse was the short 114-yard No. 17. Wie hit her 52-degree wedge 40 yards past the green. A poor lie and two chips later and she saved bogey with an 8-foot putt.
Rebounding back on the 18th, a 467-yard par 5, Wie powered a superb drive down the middle, then hit a 5-iron 40 yards past the pin. Rolling the putt in for eagle let her finish on a high only three shots off the lead.
Next week she plays the Weetabix Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's, Lancashire, England, not far from Royal Liverpool, where the men competed on the "browns" last week.
Her father isn't caddying for her here this year.
"It is better for me -- he can't carry the big bag now, and he is getting old. I don't miss him on the bag," Wie laughed.
Karrie Webb was one shot behind the leaders at 67, followed at 68 by Maria Hjorth, Laura Davies and Se Ri Pak. Wie was tied at 69 with Annika Sorenstam.
Heather Young created a big stir with a hole-in-one at the par-3, 113-yard 17th. She hit a gap wedge, which pitched 2 yards behind the hole and spun in. It was only the third hole-in-one in this event. The ace earned Young a 2006 Renault Modus.
Wie-mania has arrived in full force this year in Evian.
Hundreds of kids flocked to watch her. In France kids are wild about soccer, but Michelle is taking over in a big way with the youth here in the Alps.