Not once, but twice Michelle Wie said she was relieved she did not have to sweat out making the cut at the 67th United States Women’s Open.
Turns out she was joking Friday after shooting a six-under-par 66 at rugged Blackwolf Run.
But given her record in 2012, how could you not take her seriously? In 10 events, Wie, a one-time wunderkind, has missed six cuts, and she has won a grand total of $19,013.
Since bursting onto the scene as the youngest player to qualify for a United States Golf Association amateur event — the 2000 United States Women’s Amateur Public Links — as a precocious 10-year-old, she has won only two L.P.G.A. tournaments (the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open).
With temperatures in the mid-90s Friday, Wie established herself as a contender heading into the weekend, tied for second with Cristie Kerr, one stroke behind Suzann Pettersen with the round nearly completed.
“I don’t know if anyone gave up on me or not,” Wie said. “I’m sure some did and some didn’t. But I never gave up on myself, and today was a good reminder to myself what I can do and I still have it.”
Her 66 was two shots better than any player fired when the Women’s Open was held here in 1998 and when the course played approximately 500 yards shorter. Laura Davies, Hollis Stacy and Kim Williams had rounds of 68.
“My goal coming in was to keep in contention,” Wie said.
A balky putter has been the bane of Wie’s 2012 season, but on Friday it was her best friend. She averaged a paltry 1.28 putts, including 13 one-putts, while averaging 270 yards off the tee — a solid formula for scoring on the challenging 6,900-yard layout.
Wie, who graduated from Stanford in June, recently switched from a belly putter to a more conventional style, but she credited a renewed confidence for her putting resurgence. She has been working with the former player Meg Mallon on the mental aspect of her short game.
“I’ve just been working on my confidence, really,” said the 22-year-old Wie. “Just I know my stroke is good when I look at it on the cameras or any time I put a number on it. It’s perfect. So I have to trust it and know I am a good putter.
“That’s what I talked to Meg about a lot,” Wie said. “I have to trust myself. I know I’m a good putter. I’ve been a good putter and I can be.”
Nobody would question that as Wie grinded her way to a seven-birdie round. She rolled in a 35-footer for birdie on the 200-yard No. 6 (her 15th hole), but her other six birdies were all from 15 feet or under.
“It was pretty similar to yesterday actually, but I had a couple more shots get in there closer,” said Wie, who shot a two-over par 74 on Thursday. “Yesterday I felt like I was lagging on my putts because I was outside 30 feet most of the day. So being closer to the hole definitely helps.”
The scores have been much lower this week than they were in 1998, when Se Ri Pak and Jenny Chuasiriporn qualified for an 18-hole playoff with their six-over par 290 scores. But even Wie had no expectations that she could fashion a 66.
“Honestly, I thought even par would be good for day, would be really good,” she said. “But for starters, it wasn’t quite as hot, which is nice, and the pins are a little bit more in the center of the greens than yesterday. But over all it’s still a U.S. Open golf course, and I played out of my butt today to shoot six-under.”
Wie admitted Blackwolf Run’s brutish reputation from 1998 had her a bit worried as she approached the week.
“I think going into this week, hearing that it was the highest score to win the U.S. Open, you get scared,” she said. “But this is a good golf course. I think it’s a golf course where you get rewarded if you hit good shots. If you don’t, you get kind of screwed.”
Wie’s closest friends on the Tour would say that she is truly deserving of the good fortune that came her way on Friday. Once billed as the “Female Tiger Woods,” her career and personal life have been scrutinized and sometimes criticized for every decision she has made from playing in several men’s P.G.A. events to putting her L.P.G.A. career on hold while attending Stanford.
“She’s a great player; Michelle is awfully talented and has a lot of game,” said Pettersen of Norway, who shot a four-under-par 68 on Friday put her at 139 for the tournament. “I think you should give her a break. She just graduated from college in four years. That’s pretty impressive to do that on the sideline of trying to compete out here.”
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