Wie riding Solheim adrenaline at Safeway
Friday, August 28, 2009
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Michelle Wie worried the atmosphere at the Safeway Classic would feel anticlimactic compared to last week’s Solheim Cup. No face paint, no teammates, no sing-song chants of “Wie are family ...” from a raucous grandstand. Back to reality.
Wie’s reality, however, is better than most. Fans once again came out of the cornfields to cheer on the island prodigy, who rocked Rich Harvest Farms and won over her peers. Wie, paired with Lorena Ochoa and defending champion Cristie Kerr in Round 1 at Pumpkin Ridge, energized the crowd with a chip-in for birdie on the 18th hole to finish 4 under.
“It was pretty cool because I called it too, you know,” Wie said. “I told my caddie ‘I think I might chip this in.’ ”
It’s fitting that Wie returns to Pumpkin Ridge after her Kumbaya session at the Cup. Six years ago, Wie and her father were entangled in a dispute with Danielle Ammaccapane over an etiquette breach at the U.S. Women’s Open, held at Pumpkin Ridge’s Witch Hollow Course. (This week’s event is being played at Ghost Creek.) Ammaccapane claimed Wie walked in her line on the 14th green. Wie’s father, B.J., said the veteran player pushed his daughter in an effort to get her point across.
It got so ugly the Wies can’t possibly have good memories about the place.
B.J. Wie shied away from the media after the Ammaccapane incident. It turned out to be one of several missteps the 19-year-old has experienced on the LPGA.
Wie returns to Pumpkin Ridge, however, on good terms. Ammaccapane has retired from the LPGA and America’s top players, as of last week, have her back.
“These 11 other players got to see the real Michelle,” said U.S. captain Beth Daniel after winning the Cup. “They will support her.”
How pumped was Wie last week? Consider that her hand is bruised from incessant fist-bumping with four-ball partner Christina Kim.
She even managed to twist an ankle walking to tee on Saturday (probably busy high-fiving a fan) and had it taped early in the week in Oregon.
“I can’t wait to put ice on it,” Wie said. “Let’s put it that way.”
By Natalie Gulbis’ last count, nine of the 12 members of the U.S. team are ill. Only Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang and Wie managed to avoid flu-like symptoms in the aftermath. Actually, several were sick last week as well.
“We were passing around cough drops,” Gulbis said. “But you don’t care (you’re so pumped).”
Paula Creamer withdrew from the Safeway Classic Friday morning. She feared the return of the mysterious stomach ailment that has plagued her on and off since November. Doctors, however, diagnosed her late Friday with the flu.
TOUGH BREAK: Gulbis, the undisputed reality TV star of the LPGA, had New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau on her bag earlier this week. Seau was taping an episode for his new TV show, “Toughest Sports Jobs.”
Gulbis’ regular looper, Greg Sheridan, surely didn’t mind the help. Sheridan’s airport transportation was involved in a three-car accident Monday morning and he suffered a separated shoulder. Thankfully, not the one he uses to carry the bag.
Seau walked nine holes with Gulbis Tuesday-Thursday, but only caddied during the pro-am. Other “tough” jobs include bat boy, rodeo clown and member of a NASCAR pit crew.
SIDELINED: World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa was among those left out of last week’s Solheim Cup. Ochoa said she watched “a little bit” of the matches on TV at home in Mexico.
There was a sizable Mexican flag in the gallery Friday, but Ochoa hasn’t given fans much to cheer about lately. She hasn’t cracked the top 5 since she won the Corona Championship in late April and is currently eighth on the money list.
Ochoa is fourth in the LPGA Player of the Year race, behind Cristie Kerr, Jiyai Shin and Yani Tseng. There’s an actual race this year for the LPGA’s biggest honor, but is anyone paying attention?