Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie teamed up on for some pre-tournament fun on Wednesday when the two contenders for the LPGA Tour’s season-ending Titleholders trophy went one-on-one in the interview room. By the time the last putt dropped at the end of the first round on Thursday, Pettersen was back in front of the microphones after a 6-under 66 and a share of the 18-hole lead, while would-be golf scribe Wie found herself at the back of the pack after an ugly 81.
Pettersen birdied two of her final three holes to grab a tie for first with Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu and Sun Young Yoo. The normally sure-putting 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis was four strokes back after missing two short ones for pars down the stretch, while last week’s winner Cristie Kerr was just one shot off the pace after firing a 67.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng, who entered the week on something of a roll with three top-five finishes in four previous starts, reverted to mid-season form with an opening 75.
Pettersen showed no lingering effects from shoulder pain that forced her to withdraw from Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge exhibition earlier in the week and almost cost her a start at last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Indeed, the winner of two tour contests this year put the pedal to the medal with four birdies on her last seven holes.
"We play the game to win, don't we? I'm in it to win. That says it all," Pettersen told reporters after her bogey-free round. "I feel like my shoulders are fairly freed up after winning two in Asia. I don't feel like I really have to go out and do anything. That makes the game that much easier."
It was another story completely for Suzann’s buddy, Michelle, who, after recording a hacker-like two birdies, four bogies, two doubles, and a triple (at the par-3 12th), was the subject of yet another in a series of “What’s Wrong With Wie?” symposiums, when the Golf Channel crew airing the tour’s finale offered suggestions for the struggling Stanford grad.
“You almost have to take a chunk of time off and maybe make major changes, whether it’s a swing coach, something drastic,” golfer-turned-commentator Jane Crafter offered about the play of the former pre-teen prodigy.
Noting that she greatly respected Wie’s coach, David Leadbetter, Crafter nevertheless recommended “perhaps just a big change there ... just a whole different perspective.”
Judy Rankin, a 26-time winner on the LPGA before she put on the Golf Channel headset, concurred.
“It’s very, very difficult when your confidence has gone," Rankin opined, "not just sour, but completely gone, to recover it without getting a really new perspective."
Wie's best finish in a season to forget that included 10 missed cuts was eighth at the Safeway Classic back in August.