Jang retains lead whilst Wie struggles
Michelle Wie couldn’t believe her scorecard. It could be from all the positive thinking she’s been doing.
Wie made the cut with two strokes to spare Friday in the Fields Open, following her opening 3-under 69 with a 73 that left her 10 strokes behind leader Jeong Jang with one round left.
“I just need right now positive thoughts and positive rounds just to put into my memory bank and move on forward from that,” Wie said. “I feel like I just need to stay present, be positive with myself.”
After finishing the round, she told her caddie that she couldn’t believe her score because she felt as though she played “a lot better.”
“The score did not show how well I played,” Wie said.
The 18-year-old Wie scrambled for three birdies and four bogeys, but wasn’t as sharp as her opening round Thursday when she broke 70 for the first time since the Evian Ladies Masters in July 2006.
Wie didn’t see it that way.
“I definitely feel like I played more solidly than I did yesterday,” she said. “Obviously the score was little bit higher, but I felt like my long game is a lot more solid than yesterday.”
Wie qualified for the weekend for the first time since last year’s Evian, where she closed with rounds of 84 and 76 to tie for 69th.
“I feel like I’m a little rusty from tournament golf. I felt with the two really solid rounds under my belt, I just feel like I’m getting better and better,” she said. “It’s going to get better.”
Maybe because it couldn’t get much worse.
She injured both wrists last year but kept playing, and struggling. She made only two cuts in 2007 and finished 19th in a 20-player field at the Samsung World Championship in October, her final event of the year. In eight starts against women, she withdrew twice and only broke par twice in 19 rounds.
“I’ve been practicing a lot, so I think it’s showing,” she said. “Everything is coming back together—the long game, the short game, the putting—It’s all just coming back.”
She got off to a good start Friday, swirling in a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 2 and making a putt that was just as long for a remarkable par save on the par-5 fifth. After hitting the cart path with her drive, her approach from 70 yards flew over the green, sending a few spectators running for cover. She pitched to the top tier of the leveled green and made the tough, downhill putt that drew a roar from the crowd.
“It was one of those shots where I thought positively and I felt really, really confident with it,” she said. “I was telling myself, ‘Just putt it,’ and it just went it.”
Wie holed an 8-footer for birdie on the next hole to reach 4 under but lost a stroke by pulling a 6-foot par putt on the par-3 eighth.
She avoided disaster on the par-5 14th after yanking her tee shot to the left through the row of palm trees and nearly in the street. The ball came to a stop between the grass and the curb.
With no relief and the traffic stopped, Wie looked down at the ominous shot with thoughts of her wrists running through her head. She calmly hit it to the front of the green and nearly escaped with a par but settled for bogey.
Playing in front of a large gallery on her home island of Oahu, Wie is starting the season against the women for the first time in five years. She previously opened at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open where she nearly made the cut as a 14-year-old. She wasn’t invited to Waialae this year.
Wie has played well at Ko Olina, missing a playoff by a shot in the inaugural event in 2006.
Players enjoyed a second day of mostly calm conditions at Ko Olina, a wide-open resort course featuring several manmade waterfalls and palm trees. The 54-hole tournament will end Saturday to accommodate television audiences in Asia.
Jang, who matched the course Thursday with a 64, had seven birdies and four bogeys in a 68 to reach 12-under 132. The 2005 Women’s British Open champion was a stroke ahead of fellow South Korean Song-Hee Kim (64).
Paula Creamer (68) was third at 10 under, followed by Lindsey Wright (66).
Annika Sorenstam, trying to complete a Hawaiian sweep after winning at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay for her 70th LPGA Tour title, birdied four of the final six holes for a bogey-free 66 to put her in the hunt at 8 under with Angela Stanford (69) and Minea Blomqvist (65).
Sorenstam is healthy and confident again after coming off an injury-shortened season in 2007 where the Swedish star was winless for the first time since her rookie season in 1994.
Jang started the day with a two-stroke lead over Creamer and tried to stay aggressive, paying for it on a couple holes. The 27-year-old made a 30-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 fourth and hit a 7-iron off the tee on the par-3 eighth to 15 feet to reach 11 under.
She missed the greens for bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10 that dropped her a stroke behind Kim. Jang then birdied three of her next four holes to regain the outright lead at 12 under.
Possibly the shortest player on tour at 5 feet, Jang is coming off a strong year, surpassing $1 million in earnings, despite failing to win for the first time in three years. She had nine top-10 finishes to finish seventh on the money list and lost in a playoff to Natalie Gulbis in the Evian.
The 19-year-old Kim surged up the leaderboard, opening with five birdies in seven holes. Her 12-foot birdie on the par-5 14th moved her to 10 under. She eagled the hole Thursday with a 12-foot putt.
Kim missed the cut last week at Turtle Bay and hoping for a good showing in her second year on tour. She dominated on the Futures Tour where she earned player and rookie of the year honors in 2006 with five victories.