RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.(AP) Michelle Wie breezed through the final round of an LPGA Tour sectional qualifying tournament on a scorching Friday in the desert, shooting a steady 1-under 71 to tie for fourth.
Completing the first step toward earning her tour card, she was 8 under after 72 holes. The 18-year-old Stanford student needed only to finish in the top 30 to advance to final qualifying tournament in Florida in December.
The scene at Mission Hills Country Club was far different than in the past for Wie, who became a golf celebrity at 13 when she played in the final group in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
This time around, she was just grinding it out along with 163 others hoping to pass the first test toward earning a tour card.
The qualifying tournament was not open to the public, and for the final round, there were no huge galleries, no grandstands, no food booths; just a golf course.
At the turn, there were some 30 people trailing along with her. As the temperature on the desert course reached 102 degrees, the group thinned down to 12 or so, including Wie’s mother and father.
“When I came the first time (this week), I didn’t know where anything was because I was so used to everything being here by the grandstands,” she said. “Sometimes you play in big crowd and sometimes you don’t. The game’s the same, the goal’s still the same, the opportunity still’s the same. I just try to play my game.”
Her game was most uneventful over the last 18 holes. She was 4 under for the day through 12, but bogeyed the next two. She then bogeyed the par-3 17th when she hit into the left bunker, hit out to 10 feet of the cup, but couldn’t get her putt to drop.
“I felt like I played pretty solidly,” she said. “Had a couple mistakes here and there, but I did what I had to do.”
He forehead was still glistening with sweat.
“It was really hot. That’s all I remember,” she said. “Even in the shade, it’s hot. I’m just waiting to get in the shower. I feel disgusting.”
Stacy Lewis, who tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open this summer, shot a closing 69 in the qualifying tournament to tie Wie and Japan’s Shiho Oyama (70) at 280, eight shots behind first-place finisher Sun-Ju Ahn of South Korea (68).
Anna Nordqvist of Sweden shot a 70 to wind up second at 274, and Miki Saiki of Japan had a 69 to finish third at 276.
Wie wasn’t able to earn her card this season through sponsor exemptions, not having won enough money to finish the equivalent of 80th on the LPGA Tour money list.
She turned pro in 2005 and a year later had at least a share of the lead on the back nine of three majors. Plagued afterward by wrist injuries, her game fell off dramatically.
Her last victory of any kind was when she was 13 and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
Wie has always played well at Mission Hill, finishing ninth in the Kraft Nabisco in 2003, fourth the following year, and 14th in 2005.
In 2006, playing the tournament for the first time as a pro, she missed a 10-foot putt on the 72nd hole that would have put her in a playoff with Lorena Ochoa and eventual winner Karrie Webb.