Michelle Wie near early lead at Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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Michelle Wie near early lead at Bank of Hope Founders Cup

LPGA Tour

Michelle Wie near early lead at Bank of Hope Founders Cup

PHOENIX – This just in: Singapore was no fluke. Michelle Wie is one off the lead of Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup after a smoking 7-under 65. The former prodigy and Nike fashionsta posted a couple late bogeys on her front nine and made the turn running hot.

She stuffed her approach on No. 1, her 10th hole, (according to LPGA founder Shirley Spork, who was near the green timing how long it took each player to putt) and rattled off a string of three consecutive birdies.

On the par-5 fifth, Wie hit 3-wood off the tee and 3-wood from the fairway to 15 feet and drained the eagle putt. She notched one more birdie on the eighth hole to close the front nine in 30.

“I really didn’t take time off this year,” said Wie of her offseason, “and came in with a really strong sense of commitment.”

The most obvious change for Wie these days is on the putting green, where she ditched the homemade table-top method and adopted a modified claw.

When asked to describe her current putting technique, the creative Wie said: “At this point, I can’t describe anything I do while I putt, so…”

So we turn to David Leadbetter, who calls it the claw without the claw.

“If you didn’t look at her grip you’d swear she’s using the claw technique,” said Leadbetter, noting that she has a cradle look with her arms but puts her right hand in a fairly conventional position on the grip. Wie said she uses the traditional claw grip in practice sometimes and modifies it in competition.

“I think it’s just a matter of what feels best that week for me,” she said.

Wie, 27, hit 12 fairways and 15 greens on the day and took 26 putts. While she hit several 3-woods off the tee at Wildfire Golf Club, she feels comfortable in her new Epic driver, noting that Callaway came to her in Florida several times during the offseason for fittings.

Wie got sick coming back from Singapore and struggled with allergies early in the week in Phoenix, but confirmed after Thursday’s round that she’s now healthy. Then she walked it back.

“I’m not going to say that because every time I say that, something happens,” she said, laughing. “No comment.”

Wie led after the first round in Singapore two weeks ago, her first time at the top of an LPGA leaderboard since the 2014 Walmart LPGA Classic, the year she won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.

Wie has competed in 60 LPGA events since her last victory. She led the field on Sunday in Singapore until a four-putt derailed her early in the round. There were chances after that, but Wie couldn’t get putts to fall. She ultimately took a share of fourth place.

“I was so confident all week,” said Wie, “and it felt great to be confident again, in contention.”

Now she’s back for more.

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