Wie finds herself a contender after two rounds of Q-school

Updated: December 4, 2008, 6:01 PM ET
Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Weaving her way through a narrow hallway next to the grill room Thursday, Michelle Wie was stopped by a woman who asked if she would pose for a picture with her young daughter.

Wie Goes Old School

Michelle Wie went back to her roots Thursday. The 19-year-old's 65 at LPGA Tour Q-school not only showed the glimpses of brilliance seen years ago, but it also handed her a share of the 36-hole lead. Eric Adelson
Focusing her camera, the woman asked how she played.

"OK," Wie said with a smile and shrug.

If that were an honest assessment, Wie should be in good shape at the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament.

Changing her tactics off the tee on the more forgiving Champions course at LPGA International, the 19-year-old from Hawaii hit driver on all but two holes and ran off four straight birdies late in her round for a 7-under 65 that put her in a tie for the lead with Shiho Oyama of Japan after the second of five rounds at Q-school.

Oyama shot 70 on the Legends course and joined Wie at 10-under 134. The top 20 players after the 90-hole tournament Sunday earn their LPGA Tour cards for next season. Through two rounds, Wie was eight shots clear of the cutoff.

Stacy Lewis, a former NCAA champion at Arkansas who tied for third at the U.S. Women's Open in her pro debut this summer, shot a 66 for the best score this week on the Legends course and one shot behind at 9-under 135.

It was the first time since the second round of the 2006 Evian Masters that Wie had a share of the lead after any round, and the first time since the Ladies German Open in late May that she put together consecutive rounds in the 60s -- at least officially.

Wie had three straight scores in the 60s at the LPGA State Farm Classic in July when she was disqualified for leaving the scoring area without signing her card after the second round, so only the first round is in the books.

Without that disqualification, Wie might have earned enough money to avoid Q-school. She also could have skipped the worst school in golf if she had showed this form earlier in the season.

But she is here with no other choice but to get a card, and she's making the most of it.

The first two rounds were strong indicators that a teenager who once had unlimited potential is closer than ever to recovering from injured wrists, shattered confidence and humbling performances.

After hitting only four drivers on the Legends course Wednesday -- a tighter, more punishing track -- Wie was far more aggressive in the second round and holed enough putts for her lowest round on the LPGA Tour since a 65 at the Samsung World International in 2005, the week of her pro debut (which also ended in disqualification).

Swing coach David Leadbetter wasn't around, but Wie carried out his hopes -- avoid mistakes and big numbers. There was nothing close to the quintuple-bogey 9 that knocked her out of the U.S. Women's Open this year, and even the three fairways she missed in the second round were not far from her target.

The longest putt she had for par came on No. 11, her second hole, when she ran a 25-foot birdie attempt 4 feet past the hole. Wie took only 24 putts, helped by three simple up-and-downs and a 40-foot chip she holed for birdie on No. 17.

She missed birdie putts of 8 feet and 6 feet on consecutive holes early on her back nine, and while she continued to hit driver, Wie also stayed conservative on the par 5s by laying up three times when she could have reached the green. On the fifth, she had only 210 yards off a slight hill, but played a short iron and then stuffed a wedge to 3 feet.

That began the late run of birdies. She hit her tee shot to 7 feet on the 145-yard sixth, holed another 7-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole and closed out her birdie string with an 8-foot putt.

Through two days on each course, Wie's only mistake has been a three-putt bogey from 25 feet Wednesday.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press