Wie poised to play major


POSTED: Wednesday, April 01, 2009

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.» Part of the tradition of winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship is jumping in Champions Lake that guards the 18th green of the Dinah Shore tournament course.

Known as “;Poppie's Pond”; in honor of former tournament director Terry Wilcox, it's not very deep, which could pose problems for Michelle Wie if she happens to win the LPGA Tour's first major of the season.

Wie and her caddie, Tim Vickers, were discussing the logistics yesterday of jumping into the pond that measures 5 1/2 feet at its deepest point. It's shallow at the edge, giving the 6-foot Wie something to think about if she winds up in first come Sunday.

“;Me and Tim were actually trying to figure that out,”; Wie said. “;We did a little greens map. We coursed out the greens and I told Timmy I have to course out the water and which way is the deepest part.

“;I hopefully want it to be a graceful jump, but it'll probably turn out to be a really ugly one, unfortunately, but I don't really care as long as I get to. Anyone who wants to jump with me is fine with me. I just have to get the deepest part.”;

A statue of Dinah Shore near the 18th green bridge serves as the focal point for the walk of champions that runs along one side of the lake near the grandstand. That Wie is entertaining a possible victory jump here gives you an idea how comfortable she is on the Dinah Shore tournament course layout.

In four previous appearances, Wie has finished in the top 10 three times. The last time she played the Kraft in 2006, Wie missed making the playoff with Lorena Ochoa and eventual winner Karrie Webb by a single shot. She finished alone in third and could have been in that playoff pairing if not for a strange shot selection at the 18th green.

Instead of two-putting from just off the back of the green, Wie elected to chip it, running the ball 10 feet past the hole, much to the chagrin of her father, B.J. Wie, who later said he wished her caddie had convinced her to putt it, instead of the delicate chip. She missed the birdie putt, having to settle for par and a third-place finish.

Still, there's no denying the love affair Wie has with this course. Last September at the LPGA sectional qualifying tournament, Wie shot a 65 and went on to earn her tour card three months later in Florida based on her performance here.

“;There are a lot of memorable things,”; Wie said. “;Walking down the 18th hole, walking to the green, that long walk where people are clapping for you. It's really a good feeling. It's a great feeling. Just everything about this golf course. All the good shots that I've had. I have a lot of good memories, so I'm really thankful about that.”;

Wie is coming off a tie for 57th at last week's J Golf Phoenix LPGA International, where she played for the first time since finishing second to Angela Stanford at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay. The 19-year-old Punahou School graduate made A's and B's in her recently completed semester at Stanford. She will not return to school until the fall.

“;I took an engineering class on like material designs and mass, so that one was a killer,”; Wie said. “;I actually did pretty well, so I'm pretty excited about that. I took a writing class on neuroscience and sound, and I took an introductory class on like arts and ideas looking at performances, so really different type of classes.”;

But now, she's focusing on golf and hopes last week's performance will better prepare her for this week's big event.

“;Obviously last week wasn't my greatest week,”; Wie said. “;But I feel like I learned a lot. I learned a lot about my game. I haven't played for a month or so, so it's good to get some of the rust off. I'm not really sure (why I play so well here), but I hope I play well again.”;