Michelle Wie shot a 70 yesterday in the first day of the four-day LPGA sectional qualifying tournament.
Wie off to good start at LPGA sectional
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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » Michelle Wie got off to a good start yesterday in her attempt to gain LPGA Tour playing privileges for next year.
Wie shot 2-under-par 70 in the LPGA sectional qualifying tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Previous success there may have helped; Wie has done well in the past at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, an LPGA Tour major.
Wie was eighth after yesterday's first of four rounds. The top 30 players advance to a 90-hole final at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., Dec. 3-7. The top 40 earn playing cards. The top 20 get access to more tournaments.
Sun-Ju Ahn shot 6-under 66 yesterday and led. Six others shot 3-under 69s.
Three other golfers from Hawaii are competing. Shayna Miyajima (71) was tied for 12th and Kelly Nakashima and Bridget Dwyer were among those tied for 90th at 77.
Now an 18-year-old professional, Wie was unable to claim her LPGA Tour card this season, failing to earn enough money competing in seven tour events to gain full-time playing status for 2009. Her $62,763 total would rank 116th on the money list. The top 80 money winners earn playing privileges for 2009 and another 40 have to qualify.
Wie, who declined to speak with reporters after the round, hasn't won a tournament since capturing the 2003 U.S. Women's Public Links championship at age 13.
Wie's career path has led to criticism from other players, including Annika Sorenstam, the winner of 10 major titles. Helen Alfredsson, 43, said in July that she felt "sad" for Wie and that she should concentrate on competing against women.
Over the past two years, Wie battled a wrist injury; withdrew from the 2007 Ginn Tribute tournament when she was close to shooting 88, a score that could have led to a suspension from LPGA events; and was disqualified from this year's State Farm Classic after forgetting to sign her scorecard.
Michelle Wie is trying to finish as one of the low 30 players (and ties) so she can advance to the final qualifying in December.
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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » Hawaii's Michelle Wie shot a 2-under 70 to begin the LPGA sectional qualifying tournament yesterday, then declined to talk to reporters about the round that put her in solid position in the 164-player field.
The 18-year-old Wie made her debut in the qualifying process with five birdies and three bogeys on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, where she has finished in the top 10 in three of her four starts in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Despite the strong start in the 72-hole qualifying event, Wie emerged from the scoring room and informed her agent that she wouldn't do any interviews until Friday's final round. She later refused to talk to reporters as she went to the putting green for practice.
Wie's 70 put her four shots behind Sun-Ju Ahn of South Korea. Ahn, one of 12 Korean players in the field, had six birdies and no bogeys in her round and is three shots ahead of a group of six players at 69. Wie is in a group at 70 that includes Stacy Lewis, who tied for third in the U.S. Women's Open in June.
Lewis had five birdies and three bogeys on the Palmer Course, where half the field played yesterday. Golfers switch courses today before the 36-hole cut to the low 70 players and ties. The final two rounds will be on the Shore Course, with the low 30 players and ties advancing to the final qualifying event in December.
Wie, whose best round on the Shore Course in the Kraft Nabisco is 66, could have been closer to the lead in her round on a day when temperatures hovered around 100 degrees under good scoring conditions. She three-putted from about 60 feet from just off the fringe on the par-4 16th, then later missed a two-foot par putt on the par-4 seventh. But she finished her round with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole.
Both Wie and Lewis tried to qualify for the LPGA tour this year through earnings in their sponsor's exemption appearances. But neither earned enough to match 80th place on the tour's official money list, the level needed for an exemption. Lewis earnings' in the U.S. Open did not count toward her LPGA earnings.