Wie gives herself major shot at first U.S. Open

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 09:10 PM

After the 68 she shot on Thursday, Michelle Wie was thinking it would be nice if she could do it again.

Wie birdied her last two holes Friday to do exactly that, setting her up at 4-under through two rounds and the halfway point of the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. She holds a three-shot lead over Lexi Thompson, who also shot a 68.

Wie said she did a good job of balancing being aggressive and playing it safe.

“We just played it safe on a lot of holes where you just can’t really go for the pins,” she said. “Course management was definitely working today.”

Wie had a remarkably fantastic round on a day in which a lot of players lost shots - just six players shot under-par. Her closing birdies on holes No. 8 and 9 set her apart from the rest of the field.

“Finishing with two birdies is always great,” she said. “It’s a grind out there. It’s not easy.”

Not that it was an easy day by any stretch. She started off her round on the back nine with eight straight pars before a birdie on No. 18 to move to 3-under, despite driving into someone’s divot on that hole.

Her second shot on hole No. 1 trickled off the green to the right, where her chip shot couldn’t hold the green and rolled back to the fringe. Two putts from there gave Wie her first bogey of the day.

The next six holes were all pars, helped by putts of 15 or 20 feet for par on holes No. 2 and 6 particularly. Wie had 29 putts on Friday, a day after she took just 26.

“Really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made,” she said. “I can’t complain, I’ll take it.”

Then back-to-back birdies on 8 and 9 set her up nicely for the third round. On hole No. 8, she was afraid she couldn’t get it to the hole, she said afterwards, but got a 6-iron to 12 feet behind the hole, from where she made the putt. On the par-3 ninth, her pitching wedge finished 15 feet short of the hole. She sank that putt for a round-closing birdie.

Wie said that starting off with eight pars might make her mad usually, but Friday was an exception.

“I felt in some other golf courses I would be mad at that point,” she said. “I was very happy that I had eight pars. Pars are great on this golf course. I’ll take a par any day on this golf course.”

Wie’s record in the U.S. Open has been less than stellar. Other than a tie for third in 2006, she hasn’t been a serious contender. She withdrew in 2013, tied for 35th in 2012, tied for 55th in 2011 and missed the cut in 2010. But she’s played well on the LPGA Tour this year, with a win and eight top 10s coming into this week.

“She’s just hitting a lot of fairways, hitting it straight,” said Paula Creamer, who is at 2-over. “She’s got control of her ball and she’s making putts. If you do that, you’re going to be doing pretty well at any golf course.”

Wie said she really wants to win this tournament, especially this being her national championship. Only one American - Creamer in 2010 - has won the U.S. Women’s Open since 2008. But she’s also aware, she said, that the 72nd hole is far away.

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

Remember, Martin Kaymer matched under-par scores last week in the first two rounds that propelled him to a victory on this very course in the men’s version of this championship.

Wie has set herself up well for a run this weekend at that major she really wants to win. But she just wants to stay in the present. She’ll watch some Game of Thrones tonight before an 8:30 p.m. bedtime, not trying to think about the next 48 hours.

“You never really know at U.S. Opens,” she said. “I’m just going to go out there and have fun. I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I have.”