It wasn't a circus, at least not compared with the last time she played a competitive round. The gallery was still large, with nearly 1,000 people following her on each hole, and a throng of reporters from around the world still studying and analyzing every move she made. But Michelle Wie's opening round yesterday at the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock was a much calmer affair than her attempt earlier this week to qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
It was, in fact, a fairly uneventful round for Wie, all things considered. She didn't get off to a great start, playing the first 12 holes at 2-over par, but she also didn't play her way out of the tournament, birdieing three of the last four to finish with a 1-under 71. She finished the day tied with 19 other golfers for 41st place, including defending champion Annika Sorenstam.
Wie wasn't even the best player in her threesome yesterday. Dorothy Delasin, who hasn't won since 2003, shot a 67 to tie for fourth.
"I can't really explain it, but I felt like I played really well today," Wie said. "Seventy-one still feels like a good score because I felt like I was playing well. I couldn't really get anything going, but the last four holes it seemed like I was back to normal, so hopefully tomorrow morning I can keep that going."
Wie's irons looked pretty dialed in at the start of the round, and for the most part, she drove it long and straight. But once again, similar to her U.S. Open qualifying round, her putting occasionally let her down. Wie had makeable birdie putts on each of the first three holes, but couldn't convert any. A double bogey on the fifth made her want to "pull her hair out" but she settled down and birdied the ninth, giving her a little momentum going into the back nine.
"There are weird tricky greens out here," Wie said.
"It was just some weird putts that I had today. I feel like I've been stroking the ball very solidly, hitting the ball where I want to. I think my putting is getting better."
Things looked somewhat grim for Wie after she bogeyed the 12th hole to fall back to 2-over, but she made a crucial par putt on No. 14, and it seemed to turn around her first round.
"My stroke felt really good," Wie said. "It finally caught the hole and went in, and it actually felt good for once. I think that really helped my confidence."
On No. 18, Wie hit probably her best shot of the day, dropping a 9-iron inside of 3 feet from 148 yards out. She rolled in the birdie putt, then gave the gallery a warm smile before heading off.
"Some shots didn't go the way I wanted to, but I feel like I held on, and my hair is still in, so I'm happy," Wie said. firstname.lastname@example.org