Michelle Wie looks more and more comfortable every week folded over her flat stick, and the No. 10 golfer in the world began her preparation for the U.S. Women’s Open by firing a 6-under 65 Thursday in the first round of the Manulife LPGA Classic.
Wie, who has turned scorn for her so-called "tabletop" putting style into kudos as she’s compiled a win and six additional top-10 finishes in 2014, needed only 27 putts to grab a share of the 18-hole lead with Hee Young Park in Waterloo, Ontario. She was also dead-on with her approaches to the putting surfaces, finding 15 of 18 greens in regulation to go with 10 of 14 fairways off the tee, which resulted in seven birdies and a lone bogey.
With her eye on Stacy Lewis’ No. 1 ranking, Tim Rosaforte noted on Golf Channel on Thursday, and surely one of the favorites to capture the women’s second major of the season in two weeks, Wie recognized she had a long way to go to put this week’s event in the win column.
"It's definitely one of those golf courses where you have to keep making birdies," said Wie, who earned the second of her three LPGA Tour victories north of the border at the 2010 Canadian Women’s Open. "My 6-under today, it's not enough. I need to keep making birdies for the rest of the weekend. Still a lot of work cut out for me."
Wie has had a tremendous 2014 season, with those seven top-10 results including a second-place finish to Lexi Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco Championship among five top-fours in 11 starts. Indeed, Lewis may be hearing footsteps from third-ranked Lydia Ko, who thanks to the vagaries of the world rankings system,could take over the top spot this week, but Wie is not far behind.
The world rankings are based on the previous two years of play, points out Kiwi reporter Matt Richens, who does the ciphering. Since Ko has played far fewer tournaments than Lewis and No. 2 Inbee Park, her strong finishes have a larger impact on the calculations than those of her colleagues. The 17-year-old, three-time tour winner from New Zealand would climb to the top rung with a win and a Lewis finish of eighth place or worse.
If Wie continues her torrid pace, however, anyone else’s claim on the top seed may be short-lived. The 24-year-old Stanford graduate has rocketed from the 100th position to No. 10 in just over a year and she's poised to make another jump this week.