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Wie firmly in lead heading into weekend in Pinehurst
June 20, 2014

It has been 11 years since Michelle Wie played in her first LPGA major and there have been plenty of ups and downs for the Honolulu, Hawaii native since then. But while the 24-year-old is still looking for her first major win, she has put herself in a great position to perhaps finally capture that elusive title at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

Wie fired a second straight 2-under 68 Friday on the difficult Pinehurst No. 2 golf course and finds herself with a three-shot lead over 19-year-old and fellow American Lexi Thompson. It’s the first time in Wie’s career that she has led a major championship after 36 holes and also the first time that she has led after the second round of any tournament since 2010.

“I can’t complain. End of the day yesterday I was thinking if I just did this again, that would be nice,” said Wie. “But always finishing with two birdies is always great. It’s a grind out there. It’s not easy. Really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made. I can’t complain, I’ll take it.”

The final pairing for Saturday’s third round will look familiar to anyone who watched the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Thompson and Wie were tied for the lead entering the final round of play but it was Thompson who managed to outduel Wie on Sunday to capture her first major championship. Thompson said it’s too early to call it a rematch and was pleased wtih her patience during her round on 68 on Friday.

“Today went very well for me,” said Thompson. “I just stayed within one shot at a time and did my routine and had fun in between shots, not really -- didn’t really get stressed out about the bad shots, just went to the next one, go find it and I think that’s all about U.S. Women’s Opens, you just have to stay patient and there was a few birdie holes on back nine for me, on my second nine. So I knew I could make a few birdies there.”

But if Wie’s play the first two days of this championship is any indication, she is not going to be fading away this time. Today marked the sixth time Wie sits inside the top-five after 36 holes in 2014 in comparison to never achieving that feat last season.

“I’m just going to go out there and have fun,” said Wie. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I have. Being in contention, having the clubhouse lead for now, I’m just really excited for the weekend. I’m really excited that I have chance and I’m going to have a lot of fun this weekend.”

Finishing with back-to-back birdies in Friday’s round, Wie managed to get in the clubhouse early with a two-shot lead over first-round leader Stacy Lewis who teed off in the afternoon. But Lewis had an up-and-down day that included six bogeys and three birdies en route to a 3-over 73. She trails Wie by four shots in a tie for third with Amy Yang of South Korea and Australian amateur Minjee Lee.

“I didn’t hit the ball very good to start,” said Lewis. “Then the putting just didn’t help. At a U.S. Open you’re going to have to make some 5- and 6-footers and that’s what I didn’t do today. I hit some bad iron shots but I didn’t leave myself in that bad of places, I just didn’t putt very good, but I played really good the last five holes. So I hung around and that’s what you’ve got to do at this tournament.”

The course at Pinehurst No. 2 continues to be a storyline this week and played tough on Friday with only six players posting rounds under par. Wie and Thompson are the only two players to break par through 36 holes. Lewis said Friday’s setup was a bit more challenging with some tees set further back, but welcomes the challenges the USGA assembles.

“I like it when you’ve got to hit shots and think your way around and be patient,” said Lewis. “I like having those drivable holes, just to make it a little bit fun for everybody and kind of switch it up. But the USGA will keep doing that, they will keep switching things up. I hope it’s harder. I think four shots on a harder golf course is a good spot to be.”

Trophy time: Her sights have obviously been set on winning a major championship but Michelle Wie admitted on Friday that she not only has envisoned herself hoisting a major championship trophy but has unconsciously been
practicing the feat.

“Oh, yeah. I definitely always thought about it, always dreamt of it,” said Wie. “Every time I hold something people make fun of me, because I hold it like a trophy. But I just -- like I said, I’m going to stay in the present. It’s a long way to Sunday. Definitely it’s always been a big dream of mine.”

Wie joked that after a friendly competition in Florida with current Tour members and legends Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel, they were award salad bowls as prizes. The photo proves that Wie was made to hold a trophy.

“Well, I mean, we were -- we got these salad bowls when I was playing with Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel, and everybody got salad bowls,” said Wie. “And everybody kind of held it up normally, and I was holding up here. I was the only one in the picture holding it like that. But just other things, too. I don’t know, just everything.”

Tale of two rounds: Stacy Lewis may have cursed herself when she called her opening round 68 ‘easy’ on Thursday and the golf gods gave her a bit of a challenge in the second round. Lewis did not have a single bogey in her first round, but have six in her first 13 holes on Friday.

“I think that just playing morning versus afternoon, ball was rolling out a lot more,” said Lewis. “I was closer when we had the tees the same, it was closer. But I think it played slightly harder just because more tees were back, just longer irons into a few holes. I thought the greens were actually a little bit slower and it could just be the afternoon versus the morning, I don’t know. But I just didn’t quite get the speed. But if -- I definitely think they will get things harder, definitely.”

Lewis said the key heading into the weekend will be minimizing big numbers. She has yet to pick up anything worse than a bogey and said recovering from the tough spots is imperative.

“When you get in trouble on this course, you got to make bogey,” said Lewis. “You can’t make doubles or worse than that. You’ve just got to just be -- just stay really patient and that’s what I did. I hit some good shots; 14, 15, was really nice; 16, 17, 18, made some good pars. So that’s what you’ve got to do on this golf course.”

Awesome amateur: Minjee Lee was just a spectator at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2013 and a year later, she’s now a contender. The top-ranked amateur in the world from Perth, Australia lists World Golf and LPGA Halls of Famer Karrie Webb as one of her idols and was awarded a trip to Sebonack Golf Club last year by Webb through her Karrie Webb Scholarship Series. Webb gives an all-expenses paid trip for two top amateurs from Australia to accompany her to the U.S. Women’s Open

“We get to spend a week with her at the Open, which is priceless,” said Lee. “It’s like the best experience ever.”

And now, just a year later after a behind the scenes look at a U.S. Women’s Open, she’s the one showing how things are done. The 18-year old is now four shots off the lead after two rounds of play and can see her name above her idol’s on the leaderboard. Webb finished the second round with a 3-over 73 and is tied for 10th at 3-over par. Lee is more than pleased with her performance so far in her U.S. Women’s Open debut.

“It is my first and I’m in contention, so I can’t ask for anything more, really,” said Lee.

Lee has performed well at her first two LPGA Tour appearances this year, a T11 at the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open and a T24 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She’s not short on confidence and believes she has the game to contend on the biggest stages. Lee plans to play as an amateur the rest of the 2014 season and then play in the LPGA Qualifying Tournament.

“Well, I was quite close at the Aussie Open the beginning of the year and a couple of the other tournaments beginning of the year,” said Lee. “So, yeah, I think I have the ability to contend and I think in the future I’ll be able to win some tournaments.”

Lee leads a strong group of amateurs who have played well through 36 holes this week. She’ll try to become only the second amateur in history to win the event and first since Catherine Lacoste won in 1967 at the Cascades Course of The Homestead, in Hot Springs, Virginia.

Top-4 Amateurs Through 36 Holes:

Player Position Score
Minjee Lee T3 E
Brooke Mackenzie Henderson T14 4
Mathilda Cappeliez T28 6
Emma Talley T50 8

Let's manage this: Wie was asked what she was most impressed with in her round on Friday and the 24-year-old said her teamwork with caddie, Duncan French, and the way they navigated the track at Pinehurst No. 2.

“I think it’s course management,” said Wie. “I think my caddie and I did a great job today. Even if I left myself 50 foot putts for birdie. We just played it safe on a lot of holes, where you just can’t really go for the pins. I think we did a good job of being aggressive and playing it safe. Course management was definitely working today.”

Wie was criticized for her conservative play in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April where she rarely hit driver at Mission Hills Country Club. She was tied with fellow American Lexi Thompson with 18 holes to play and eventually lost by three shots. Wie said she has learned

“I think I went through a phase where I was too aggressive,” said Wie. “I think I went through a phase where I was maybe not aggressive enough. And I think I’ve learned from both situations. I think, hopefully, being a little bit older, I’m a little bit wiser, probably not the case, but hopefully that’s the case. I think I’m just learning with situations, the risk/reward, just kind of thinking it through. I think my caddie is doing a really good job of kind of talking me through it, walking me through, as well, too. And I think we’re both learning.”

If Wie will be able keep things consistent this weekend, she will see her best finish by far in her last six appearances at the U.S. Women’s Open. Out of her last six starts in the national championship, her best finish was a 35th and had two missed cuts and withdrew twice.

“It’s definitely one of the majors that I really want to win. I think the U.S. Open as an American is one of the most important tournaments. But Sunday is a very, very long time, far away. Just take it shot by shot. You really can’t think about Sunday, 18th hole, now. You have 36 holes to play.”

Wie’s Last Six Appearances at the U.S. Women’s Open:


Of note: Lizette Salas withdrew from the championship citing food poisoning...Jane Park withdrew during the second round due to a back injury

Quotes of the day: “I hope she’s having fun. I hope she’s having a blast out here. She definitely looks great. That was cute, she was eating ice cream in her press conference. Maybe I should do that.” -Michelle Wie on 11-year old Lucy Li

“They’re like ‘oh, you’re famous now!’” -Lucy Li on her friends reaction to her getting national attention this week

Notables to miss the cut: Jessica Korda (+11), Suzann Pettersen (+12), 2005 U.S. Women’s Open champ Birdie Kim (+12), Laura Davies (+16). Eleven-year old phenom Lucy Li will not be playing on the weekend either but will leave Pinehurst with great memories and a bag full of lessons. Li finished at 16-over par (78-78) and made history this week as the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history.

“It’s been a great week,” said Li. “I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot and, yeah, I guess it has exceeded my expectations.

Li credited her playing partners Jessica Wallace and Catherine O’Donnell with making her experience all that more special.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Li. “I guess that it was fun because I had two great playing partners. They were really nice. I guess because I did a good job of staying patient and going to the next shot and not caring about what happens.”


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