RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Michelle Wie shot a 2-under 70 to begin the LPGA sectional qualifying tournament Tuesday, then declined to talk to reporters about the round that put her in solid position in the 164-player field.
The 18-year-old Wie made her debut in the qualifying process with five birdies and three bogeys on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, where she has finished in the top 10 in three of her four starts in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Despite the strong start in the 72-hole qualifying event, Wie emerged from the scoring room and informed her agent that she wouldn’t do any interviews until Friday’s final round. She later refused to talk to reporters as she went to the putting green for practice.
Wie’s 70 put her four shots behind Sun-Ju Ahn of South Korea. Ahn, one of 12 Korean players in the field, had six birdies and no bogeys in her round and is three shots ahead of a group of six players at 69. Wie is in a group at 70 that includes Stacy Lewis, who tied for third in the U.S. Women’s Open in June.
Lewis had five birdies and three bogeys on the Palmer Course, where half the field played Tuesday. Golfers will switch courses Wednesday before the 36-hole cut to the low 70 players and ties. The final two rounds will be on the Shore Course, with the low 30 players and ties advancing to the final qualifying event in December.
Wie, whose best round on the Shore Course in the Kraft Nabisco is 66, could have been closer to the lead in her round on a day when temperatures hovered around 100 degrees under good scoring conditions. She three-putted from about 60 feet from just off the fringe on the par-4 16th, then later missed a two-foot par putt on the par-4 seventh. But she finished her round with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole.
Both Wie and Lewis tried to qualify for the LPGA tour this year through earnings in their sponsor’s exemption appearances. But neither earned enough to match 80th place on the tour’s official money list, the level needed for an exemption. Lewis earnings’ in the U.S. Open did not count toward her LPGA earnings.