- Eric Adelson, ESPN The Magazine
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Stacy Lewis doesn't quite know what all the fuss is about.
The 2008 NCAA Women's Champion out of the University of Arkansas played 18 with Michelle Wie on Friday in Q-school and noticed a couple of things: first, the crowd size was "a little crazy." And second, "She's a good player, but not much better than everyone else."
Now before Don King appears with the steel cage, Lewis didn't make her comments with even a smidgeon of spite. She joked with Wie throughout the round, and praised her afterward. Lewis simply sees 150 or so people lining up along the fairways to watch a fairly-long hitter try to get her LPGA Tour card and, well, "from a player's side," she says, "I don't understand it."
Lewis is only the latest player to comment on the frenzy of a round with Wie. Players on the PGA Tour have complained that the top names in men's events Wie played (like the John Deere Classic) never got paired with the teen, while the paycheck-to-paycheck guys had to deal with the distraction of cameras and galleries that shifted to the next hole as soon as Wie putted out.
At USGA events like the Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Open sectional qualifying events, Wie's playing partners had to walk among the throngs of Wie onlookers, since there were either limited ropes for galleries or no ropes at all. Lewis felt their pain Friday. The crowd was polite, but there was no rope line (other than a few yards of the yellow string held up by two marshals) and fans walked near or on the fairways.
"It's hard to get used to," Lewis said. "You hit your tee shot and have to run to get ahead of everyone. If you're not used to handling it, it's hard."
Wie herself dealt with the same issue, as many of the walkways from one hole to the next funneled players, caddies and carts along narrow bridges. But of course, for Wie, 150 or so fans resembles a tiny crowd.
Those who wanted to see the swashbuckling Stanford student of Thursday, though, didn't get their way. Wie went back to the tougher of the two venues here, and only hit driver four times on the Legends Course. She played a smart brand of golf, as she did on Day 1 Wednesday, and shot even-par 72 to finish tied for third with Lewis (-10), one shot behind playing partner Shiho Oyama (-11) and two behind leader Mollie Fankhauser (-12).
Wie also showed great maturity in rebounding from two major mistakes.
On the second hole, she yanked her 3-wood tee shot way left. Her ball bounced off the cart path and deep into the woods. Wie took a drop and chipped out. But once she got to the green, the 19-year-old three-putted and slapped herself on the thigh. Double-bogey 7.
Here's where, in recent years, Wie might have imploded. But she responded with a par, then three straight birdies to briefly lead the field at -11.
A similar thing happened on the par-4 13th, where she pulled her drive way left, chipped out, then two-putted for a bogey. But she got that shot back on 16 with a beautifully stroked 12-foot birdie putt. She finished with 30 putts on the day.
Wie will enter the last round before Saturday's cut to low 70 and ties with tons of room between her 10-under score and the current projected cut of 2-over. Her course management and occasional aggressive play have worked ideally so far. But Wie celebrated the breathing room by going directly from the 18th green to the range, where she worked on ironing out the slight kink in her swing that pulled a few of her tee shots to the left.
Wie will expect better Saturday, as will the sure-to-swell weekend crowds that will follow her around and hope to get home in time to watch the University of Florida Gators in the SEC Championship football game.
As for Lewis, she will be watching Wie as well -- from the group right behind her.
Eric Adelson's book on Michelle Wie will be released in 2009, but is available for preorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
14hZach Jones, ESPN Stats & Information