There have been glimpses of the “old” Michelle Wie in 2012, and the former child prodigy continued to show some progress with her game by firing a 6-under 66 on Thursday, sharing the lead with Angela Stanford and Candie Kung at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Here are 5 Things to take away from the first round . . .
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1. NO MISTAKING IT: Michelle Wie didn’t just run out to the lead, she did with a spotless card, picking up birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 and then starting the back nine with four consecutive birdies to card her 6-under 66. Wie is only playing the tournament because of a sponsor’s exemption, as she failed to qualify for the 36-player tournament.
“It’s been a really difficult year,” said Wie. “It’s been the hardest year I’ve had so far, but I think the guacamole is helping this week, and I think that might be the changing point, so I’m going to keep eating it and hopefully it will help.”
Wie hit 9 of 14 fairways, while averaging 290.5 yards off the tee. She did the bulk of her work on the greens, hitting 13 of 18 in regulation and needing only 26 putts.
“You have to be on the right position on the fairway, on the right position on the green, get above the hole a couple times and getting in your putts,” said Wie. “So for the next couple of days I just need to put them in the right position, keep doing that and well just position golf.”
The 66 was Wie’s lowest round since a 66 in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open. She shoot 78-80 on the weekend. Wie’s best finish of the season is eighth at the Safeway Classic in August, while the Stanford product has missed nine cuts in 21 events.
Wie won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in 2009, picking up the first of her two LPGA victories.
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2. BIRDIE FEST: Both Candie Kung and Angela Stanford had seven birdies on the day, with both picking up a bogey on the front nine to cause them to finish the day tied for the lead.
Stanford was a model of consistency on Thursday, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. She stepped to the 8th tee at 1 over, but managed birdies at Nos. 8-11 and then posted three more birdies on Nos. 14-16 to erase her early bogey at No. 4. Stanford has a win (HSBC Champions) and 5 top-10s this season. Stanford won this event in 2008.
“Well, you know everybody is so nice here and I think it’s just because maybe that was it winning the first one, that was it,” said Stanford. “I enjoy being here and maybe all the fans sense that and it´s nice to have people cheering for you.”
Kung got to 6 under by starting the round hot with birdies at Nos. 2-4, gave a shot back at No. 5 and then sprinkled in four birdies on the back side. Kung hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation, tops in the field. Kung has four career victories, but has only two top-10s in 2012 and has earned only $427,335.
“It’s my fifth and next week is going to be sixth,” said Kung. “I was pretty tired, I got here on Monday, midnight and actually slept all the way through Tuesday and yesterday I slept pretty good too. I went to bed at 7 and I actually feel really good today. I feel like a new person after the last 4 weeks.”
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3. CLOSING IN: Stacy Lewis is inching toward securing the Rolex Player of the Year trophy, with only Inbee Park able to catch the American in the standings. The two were paired together on Thursday.
Both Lewis and Park are T-4, one shot off the lead at 5 under. Park would have to win the final two tournaments of the year and Lewis would have to finish outside the top 10 in each. Lewis posted a bogey-free round, while Park had seven birdies and two bogeys.
“We actually haven’t played together this year,” said Lewis. “It was fun to play together when we are both playing really well, she has won and finished second so she’s playing well too.”
Lewis would be the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win the Player of the Year award.
Also at 5 under are Cristie Kerr, Karine Icher and So Yeon Ryu.
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4. SHE’S BAAAAACK: Lorena Ochoa, a 27-time winner on the LPGA tour, teed it up for the second time this season and fired a 1-under 71 behind two birdies and a bogey at the par-3 17th hole.
Ochoa was a bit rusty off the tee, hitting only five fairways, causing her to miss 11 greens. She did need only 26 putts.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Of the 36 players in the field, 24 shot under par or better . . . Yani Tseng, the World No. 1, continues to show signs of better golf and fired a 2-under 70 to sit T-13 . . . American stars Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Natalie Gulbis are all at 1 under.