Wie shot a 2-under 70 in the second round.
Robert Beck/SI
Saturday, February 14, 2009

KAHUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Michelle Wie put herself into contention for her first LPGA Tour victory, shooting a 2-under 70 in difficult conditions Friday in the second round of the season-opening SBS Open.

Making her debut as an LPGA card-carrying member, Wie used a three-birdie run to surge to the top of the leaderboard and finish with an 8-under 136, where she was tied with Angela Stanford (71) heading into Saturday's final round.

``It feels good,'' Wie said of being in contention again. She will be in the final group for the first time since the 2006 Evian Ladies Masters, where she tied for second and picked up her biggest tour paycheck of her career.

Wie said she couldn't remember the last time she led going into the final day. It was at the 2006 U.S. Women's Open where she was tied with Annika Sorenstam and Brittany Lincicome. Wie finished tied for third, two strokes out of the playoff.

She said winning would be ``great,'' but won't get ahead of herself. She hasn't hoisted a trophy since claiming the USGA Women's Amateur Public Links Championships at age 13 to become the youngest USGA champion in history.

``I just don't want to get that engrained in my head just yet,'' she said. ``I feel like everyone has been asking me that, and there's still a day left. I just want to do the same thing and play as hard as I can.

``Obviously it would mean a lot, so I'm just going to try and have fun out there,'' she said.

The 19-year-old LPGA rookie is seeking her first title in her 49th start on tour. She's also looking to put her past struggles behind her.

``I'm starting with a clean slate,'' she said. ``I earned my way here. I'm a rookie. And I've been through a lot, so I'm just going to start fresh, start new and just have a great year.''

Stanford, the first-round leader, began the day at 7 under and quickly caught Wie for the lead by birdieing the par-5 third hole before running off 15 straight pars for her second bogey-free round.

Stanford, of Saginaw, Texas, is coming off a career-best season where she won two events, broke $1 million for the first time and finished ninth on the money list.

Brazilian-born Angela Park had the best round of the day with a 68 and was at 7 under, two strokes ahead of Japan's Momoko Ueda (71).

``My thought process is exactly the same as it was the first two days - win, second or third doesn't matter as long as I go out and put my best foot forward,'' said Park, the 2007 rookie of the year.

Rookies Stacy Lewis (70), the Q-school medalist, and 18-year-old Vicky Hurst (71) were at 3 under, with 2008 rookie of the year and second-ranked Yani Tseng (75), who opened her round with a double bogey.

There were consistent winds of 25 to 30 mph at Turtle Bay that bent the flagsticks and had players switching clubs and fans holding their caps.

``It was pretty tough. I thought the wind was blowing pretty hard yesterday and today I was almost blown off my feet,'' Wie said. ``I just tried to play patiently and tried to not to be too greedy.''

After starting on No. 10 and playing her first nine holes in even par with a birdie and three-putt bogey, Wie moved on to the more exposed side of the Palmer Course.

She chipped in from about 35 feet on No. 2 and drew a roar from the hometown gallery, which included a woman who wore a T-shirt that read, ``Wie Believe.'' The chip sparked the three-birdie run.

``All day I was hitting such good shots and such good putts and didn't really get in the hole, and finally it kind of burst the door open, so it felt really refreshing,'' Wie said.

Wie caught a break on that hole when her drive sailed left, over the rope, bounced and hit a woman, preventing the ball from traveling at least 10 more yards. Wie recovered with a 5-wood shot out of the rough onto the fringe, setting up the chip.

On the next hole, Wie hit an aggressive wedge that left her with a 9-foot birdie putt for the outright lead at 8 under. She followed that by dropping a 30-footer for birdie on the par-3 fourth to reach 9 under and a two-stroke cushion.

While Wie seemed to make all her long putts, Wie couldn't seem to handle the short ones late in the round.

She slapped her hip after missing a 3-footer for birdie on the seventh hole that would've given her a three-shot cushion. She three-putted for bogey on the next hole, lipping a 3 1/2-foot par putt.

``It's hard putting in the wind,'' she said. ``When the ball's shaking, you can't really ground your club.''

The Stanford sophomore, who has struggled the past two years with wrist injuries that forced her to miss cut after cut and shattered her confidence, earned her tour card in December with a seventh-place tie at Q-school.

Wie is now healthy, confident and trying to show that she not only belongs on tour, but has the ability to win.

She's always played well at Turtle Bay, located on Oahu's North Shore about an hour-drive from where she grew up. Wie played the first SBS in 2005 as a 15-year-old amateur and tied for second, two strokes behind winner Jennifer Rosales. Wie was the lone amateur in the field and the only player to shoot under par for three rounds.

It also was at Turtle Bay in 2006 that she became the first female player to win a local qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open.

You May Like