HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (AP) — Michelle Wie could end up making the final LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock an unforgettable event.
Wie shot a 2-under 70 on Thursday to put herself in contention for her first win on the LPGA Tour. The 19-year-old turned pro in 2005, but this marks the first year she’s playing as a tour member.
Thus, she’s still considered to be a rookie.
Wie already has three top-10 finishes this year, and an improved putter helped her finish Thursday with three birdies on the back nine. If Wie makes a run this weekend, Bulle Rock can expect an overflow crowd Sunday for its final round as home of the LPGA Championship.
The tournament will lose McDonald’s as a sponsor after this year and has not settled on a site for 2010.
Wie would love her first win to come this weekend, especially because the tournament is a major that pays the winner a cool $300,000. But Wie’s expectations this year transcend collecting big paychecks.
“I’m having so much fun playing almost every week and traveling to different places,” she said. “The main goal for me is to have a lot of fun, play my hardest, try my hardest. Win, for sure. And get on the Solheim Cup team.”
On Thursday, Wie had her lone bogey on No. 3. She closed the back nine with pars on the next six holes, then had three birdies on the back nine to finish five shots behind leader Nicole Castrale.
“I’ve been working on my putting a lot, so hopefully it’s a lot better,” Wie said. “I missed a couple of short putts early on, but it was good, too.”
After the summer, Wie intends to return to Stanford to resume another important quest: earning a college degree.
“It’s definitely one of my biggest goals,” she said. “I’m planning to go back in the fall quarter.”
NOW HEAR THIS: In an effort to expand its fan base, the LPGA Tour has asked its players to share their thoughts with fans on twitter.com.
Taking the lines of communication even further, Christina Kim played Thursday while wearing a microphone. She bemoaned her bad shots, kidded with her playing partner (Wie) and generally kept a running conversation going throughout her round of 71.
The outgoing Kim was a perfect choice for that kind of banter. Then there’s Angela Stanford, who isn’t nearly as comfortable sharing her innermost feelings.
“I just don’t have anything to say,” Stanford said. “I’m the world’s worst Tweeter or Twitterer.”
Paula Creamer won’t Tweet while lining up a putt, but said, “Overall, I think it’s pretty neat to correspond with your fans. Lately it’s been a lot about the (Orlando) Magic.”
Creamer was born in California but went to high school in Florida.
DOUBLE THE POINTS: Two of the LPGA Tour’s most prestigious annual awards could be impacted by the results of the LPGA Championship.
Points for the Rolex Player of the Year Award and Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year are doubled, meaning the winner will receive 60 points toward player of the year honors. A rookie will receive 300 points with a win.
Lorena Ochoa began the tournament with a 1-point lead over Cristie Kerr for player of the year. For the rookies, Jiyai Shin was 209 points ahead of Wie.
Ochoa shot a 72 Thursday, Kerr opened with a 76 and Shin carded a 73.