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Wie swings into tie for 18th at Nabisco


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POSTED: Friday, April 03, 2009

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » After Wednesday's late-afternoon pro-am round, Michelle Wie took her golf cart from the Arnold Palmer-designed course straight to the nearby practice range, famed swing coach David Leadbetter in tow.

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There, under the watchful eye of Wie's parents and caddie Tim Vickers, Leadbetter and Wie began a 90-minute practice session in hopes of solving all her wayward tee shots.

Apparently, her driver didn't get the memo.

Despite shooting a solid 1-under 71 in beautiful conditions on the Dinah Shore tournament course, Wie could have shot so much better if she hadn't spent a lot of her time in the trees guarding the right side of several fairways.

Starting with her first drive of the day that went way right, Wie couldn't get comfortable on the tee box with her driver, hitting only nine fairways and as a result hit just nine greens in regulation. If it hadn't been for Wie's short game, which was particularly sharp, the Punahou School graduate could have been at the bottom of the leaderboard looking up.

Instead, she completed the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship trailing opening-round leader Brittany Lincicome by five shots. Wie ended the day tied for 18th and still in contention, despite wasting a great day to go low.

Leadbetter blames part of Wie's problems on the type of shaft she has with her driver, something her mother, Bo, insists she uses. Without getting too technical, Leadbetter conceded yesterday she isn't comfortable with the driver and had a minor case of nerves during the early part of yesterday's first 18 holes.

“;It's a typical thing with Michelle, ever since we started working, one has those kind of recurring tendencies,”; Leadbetter said. “;With her build, her legs get going very quick and the club lags behind. She's messing around trying to find the right shaft. She has the X-shaft that's not very forgiving. As she gets on the range and she gets into rhythm, it's fine. But out here, you get a bit more tense and there's quite an issue that the shaft might be a bit stiff.

“;She's always kind of played X-shafts, so that's probably a throwback to the days where the PGA Tour players play it, so I've got to. Obviously, she's a very aggressive player and when her rhythm is good, it's fine. But you've got to find something a little more forgiving. But hey, it's a good start, a good steady performance.”;

Most of the LPGA Tour players use a driver with a stiff shaft, not the X-shaft that competitors on the PGA Tour use. If you hit it square with quick club speed, as most PGA Tour players do, then the golf ball goes farther with better control. But if you block it to the right, you spend time chipping it out and having to save par from the 6- to 8-foot range, something Wie had to do seven times yesterday.

“;She's starting to swing a lot better,”; Leadbetter said. “;We're getting a little less mechanical and getting to thinking about shots now. The great thing is, she's healthy. No excuses in that department, so I think she's ready to start to play well.”;

Wie played well enough to land in red figures. On a day like yesterday, where the wind stayed low, the 19-year-old Stanford student didn't take advantage of the calm conditions, something that could come back to haunt her over the next three days.

“;I left some shots out there, especially with the problems with my driver,”; Wie said. “;This is my first major in a while and it was excitement, but just a little jittery, but I calmed down pretty quickly. You always have the same jittery feeling when you play in the majors.”;

Wie's putter worked effectively. Although she did miss a couple of 5-footers for par, she made another seven of that variety to save her round. Her thoughts on that development?

“;I know, it's so odd, but thankfully they went in,”; Wie said of the myriad par saves. “;My stroke is good, so hopefully it will be for birdie tomorrow.”;