Golf: Healthy Michelle Wie grabs lead

Michelle Wie's eight birdies in her opening round of 66 at the New Tanjong course belie her poor recent form and lowly world ranking of 179. Five golfers, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, are right behind her.
Michelle Wie's eight birdies in her opening round of 66 at the New Tanjong course belie her poor recent form and lowly world ranking of 179. Five golfers, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, are right behind her.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

US star has lousy record in S'pore but credits new putting stance for solid six-under round

Michelle Wie may have looked unsure about her footwork when asked to dance like a K-pop singer for a promotional video on Monday, but she had all the right moves in yesterday's HSBC Women's Champions opening round.

The America golf star belied her lowly world No. 179 ranking, with eight birdies en route to a six-under 66 for a one-shot lead at the US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million) tournament at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Five players - including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and 2015 winner Park In Bee - shot 67.

Wie's sober black-and-white outfit contrasted with her upbeat mood. She said: "I'm very proud of where I've positioned myself today and hopefully the next three days I can keep it going, keep it rolling and keep having fun."

Enjoyment has been hard to come by for the 27-year-old, whose left leg and arm were taped but said it was a relief to finally play a round without worrying about her health.

  • LEADER BOARD

  • 1ST ROUND (SELECTED)

    66 Michelle Wie (USA)

    67 Mo Martin (USA), Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Brooke Henderson (Can), Park In Bee (Kor), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha)

    68 Hur Mi Jung (Kor), Park Sung Hyun (Kor), Paula Creamer (USA), Stacy Lewis (USA), Ryann O'Toole (USA)

    69 Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha), Suzann Pettersen (Nor), Lydia Ko (Nzl), Kim Hyo Joo (Kor)

    70 Chun In Gee (Kor), Jang Ha Na (Kor), Kim Sei Young (Kor), Lexi Thompson (USA)

    76 Amanda Tan (Sgp)

    TEE TIMES

    2ND ROUND (SELECTED)

    Tee 1

    8.32am: Jang Ha Na

    8.44am: Chun In Gee, Kim Sei Young, Lexi Thompson

    8.56am: Feng Shanshan (Chn), Pornanong Phatlum (Tha)

    9.08am: Lydia Ko, Kim Hyo Joo 9.20am: Suzann Pettersen

    9.32am: Charley Hull (Eng), Morgan Pressel (USA)

    9.44am: Stacy Lewis

    9.56am: Paula Creamer

    10.08am: Park In Bee, Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson

    10.20am: Michelle Wie, Anna Nordqvist, Mo Martin

    Tee 10

    8.37am: Amy Yang (Kor), 9.01am: Choi Na Yeon (Kor)

    9.13am: Azahara Munoz (Esp), Beatriz Recari (Esp)

    10.13am: Amanda Tan

She has battled a myriad of injuries throughout her career. During the 2007 season, she played with a wrist injury, reportedly taking four to five painkillers a day.

While many players would be thrilled to have a resume like Wie's - previously ranked in the world's top 10, four LPGA Tour wins including the 2014 US Women's Open, and more than US$5.3 million (S$7.5 million) in career earnings - the 1.85m-tall only child of South Korean immigrants is judged by a different yardstick.

Wie, a child prodigy, has struggled perennially with form. Since the start of 2015, she has played 51 events, missed the cut on 20 occasions and recorded a solitary top-10 finish in last October's Blue Bay LPGA.

Despite a poor record in Singapore - in seven previous appearances, Wie is a collective 38-over - she shone at the New Tanjong course and credited her new putting style.

"I'm standing up now," she explained of her changed stance, a departure from her unconventional "table-top" stroke which had her bending 90 degrees over the ball in the past. "I feel comfortable."

Many in the elite 63-strong field were also at ease around the 6,683- yard layout. There were 37 sub-par rounds in benign conditions with intermittent rain.

The fairways were wide open and easy to hit, said Ariya. "The key (to winning this week) is going to be the putting."

World No. 14 Anna Nordqvist shot 67 and was sharp on the greens, needing 24 putts. She said: "I worked a little extra on speed control this week and seemed to be reading them very well."

Former world No. 1 Park, playing her second event after a six-month injury layoff, remains one of the game's best putters. She said her confidence was boosted after sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand carded a 69 and is joint 12th, one better than defending champion Jang Ha Na (70, tied-21st).

Singapore's Amanda Tan recorded a 76 and is tied-59th.

HSBC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS

Day 2: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 10am and okto, 11.30am

Majority in favour of revamped rules

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Healthy Wie grabs lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe