Michelle Wie's first-round 69 yesterday was her first score under 70 in competitive play in more than a year and a half.
Wie off to solid start
Michelle Wie wants to forget all about 2007, but she's glad she has mental and muscle memory from two years ago.
Her other appearance at the Fields Open in Hawaii was a successful one, as the then-16-year-old earned her first paycheck for her performance as a pro golfer. She was third in the inaugural event in 2006, shooting 13 under for the three rounds.
Those were the days when the pressure was on Wie to win. Now, after a disastrous, injury-ridden 2007, her goals are regaining confidence and contending.
Yesterday, Wie put herself into position to do that, gaining steam and self-assurance as her first round progressed at the Ko Olina Resort course. She finished with a 3-under-par 69, her best competitive round since the final day of the Evian Ladies Masters in July 2006, when she shot 68. She finished the round tied for 16th.
"The last time I played here I only had four bogeys the whole three days," Wie said. "Two years ago I did a lot of good stuff, so (I'm) just banking off of that. But also I had a lot of good shots early in the round, so I was banking off of that."
She birdied six holes -- including five after making the turn -- and bogeyed three. The hometown crowd that grew as the round went on helped, said the Punahou graduate, who is five strokes behind leader Jeong Jang.
"I basically knew like half of the gallery members," she said.
Wie rode a hot putter (23 strokes from the greens) and hit some long drives. But she had to scramble, especially early in the round, because she sprayed her tee shots too much.
Despite no wind on the first six holes, she missed three fairways after hitting the first two. But receptive greens and consistent putting helped Wie save par several times. And she woke up the early-morning (7:15 a.m. start) gallery of around 100 with a birdie on her second hole, the 357-yard, par-4 No. 11.
Wie gave the stroke back four holes later, with two errant shots putting her to the left of the cart path, 40 yards from the hole. She chipped to 50 feet, and then putted nicely for a 6-inch tap-in -- a bogey that could've been worse.
The gallery grew near the clubhouse, and the new spectators were rewarded with a run of four birdies in five holes after Wie made the turn. Her tee shots caught up with her short game -- and even when she drove the rough at the par-5 No. 5, Wie managed to get within 20 feet of the hole in two and tap in for a birdie.
On her final hole, a 10-foot putt that would've saved par lipped out, but Wie was still smiling afterward.
"I thought it was in all the way," Wie said. "I just feel confident with my putting today. ... Definitely helped with that short game today."
Overall, the round wasn't as spectacular as some of the ones she fashioned two and three years ago when she often contended in LPGA majors. And yesterday's conditions were far from grueling. Still, it was just what Wie needed after a forgettable 2007.
"Today was obviously a confidence booster," she said. "Like I said, my goal is just to slowly get back into it. Today was a very positive round for me, and I'm just going to keep staying in the present."
She was set to start today's second round at 12:45 p.m., again with Erica Blasberg (70 yesterday) and Carolina Llano (72).
The only other local golfer in the field is Ayaka Kaneko, whose closing birdie left her at even-par 72, tied for 62nd. She tees off on No. 10 today at 8:05 a.m.