Wie survives, barely


POSTED: Saturday, April 04, 2009

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » B.J. Wie sat cross-legged under a trio of palm trees about 100 yards from where his daughter's drive at the par-3 14th had tried to find dry land, only to roll back into the water guarding the picturesque hole.

Alone, with binoculars in hand, his head dropped in disappointment as he tried to contend with his only child's feelings during the most difficult round she has ever encountered at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

He remained in that position for several moments, before looking up to see her placing a golf ball in the circled drop area, her entire demeanor altered from the day before. After scrambling for a hard-earned 71 during the opening round of the first major championship on the LPGA Tour, Michelle Wie was scrambled by winds better suited for a hurricane and a putting touch that had all the feel of Frankenstein's monster.

On Thursday, she needed only 25 putts en route to a 1-under 71 that left her tied for 18th and in contention at a tournament where she has had nothing but fond memories. But yesterday was a different story. The 6-footers she made with ease during the first 18 holes either lipped out, grazed the cup, raced past, came up short or weren't even close in the second round.

Consequently, the 19-year-old Punahou School graduate was 10 shots worse at 81 for a two-day total of 8-over 152 that left her living on the cutline, some 14 shots off the pace. Among the 70 women who survived to play another day, Wie's 9-over total was the worst second round of the bunch.

She needed 35 putts, found only five fairways and hit a meager nine greens in regulation, playing more like a first-time amateur than a woman who just made her 51st start in an LPGA Tour event. Granted, the conditions were nothing short of brutal.

Just as she was finishing her time on the practice range, a windstorm made its presence felt for the rest of the afternoon and early evening, forcing the closure of the nearby Palm Springs airport, where winds were clocked at 73 mph.

She had a pair of three-hole stretches on both the front and back nines where she went bogey, bogey, double bogey that offset anything positive she managed to stir up, including birdies at the second, fifth and 11th holes.

Even the birdie at the par-5 11th was a disappointment given that Wie stuck her second shot at the 495-yard hole to within 7 feet for eagle. She missed that putt so badly, her shoulders sagged in dismay. She went on to bogey the 12th, bogey the 13th with a three-putt from 15 feet that had her so filled with anger, she barely stopped short of smashing her putter off her Sony golf bag, then the double at the 14th after hitting her drive into the water.

And she wasn't done. At the 15th, she smacked her tee shot next to the same tree in the right rough that she did on Thursday that led to a scrambling par. At the 16th, she missed hitting her tee shot into someone's back yard by a couple of feet for a bogey and after a nice par at the 17th into gale-force winds, she double bogeyed the par-5 18th with a drive wide right, a punch-out into the fairway, a layup, a fourth shot that landed 15 feet above the hole, followed by three more putts for a seven.

She and past SBS Open winner Jennifer Rosales will be the first two golfers on the course today, which is not a good thing to start the third round. Afterward, ESPN lobbed in a few questions about how difficult it was out there, but Wie was so shell-shocked, she could barely string two sentences together.

There's no denying that conditions played a factor in her second-round 81, but the same problems she had on Thursday off the tee persisted yesterday. Wie's having a hard time keeping her tee shots between the out-of-bounds markers.

Once in a while things click with the big stick, but too often her left-to-right drives have a mind all their own. At one point at the fourth, she hit this banana shot into the woods, prompting her to yell, “;What was that?”; It was another bad drive with a Nike shaft that's as forgiving as a hanging curveball.

“;I don't want to complain about the wind after a bad round, but it's the worst wind I've ever seen,”; Wie said. “;It was a tough day. I just want to get into shelter now. Tomorrow, I just want to make lots of birdies, no bogeys, hit fairways and greens and make my putts.”;