Wie soars into US Open lead

By Shawn Stinson Sports editor

June 20, 2014

PINEHURST — The best strategy to score low at Pinehurst No. 2 is to be patient.

And Michelle Wie did her best to follow that advice.

“I think my caddie and I did a great job today, even if I left myself 50-foot putts for birdie,” Wie said. “We just played it safe on a lot of holes, where you just can’t really go for the pins. I think we did a good job of being aggressive and playing it safe. Course management was definitely working today.”

Wie shot a 2-under par 68 for the second straight day and has a 3-shot lead over Lexi Thompson heading into the weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Wie was one of six golfers to shoot an under-par round Friday.

“I had eight pars (on the front nine), and I felt on some other golf courses I would be mad at that point,” Wie said. “I was very happy that I had eight pars. Pars are great on this golf course. I’ll take a par any day on this golf course.”

Wie, who started her round on the back, closed out her second round with birdies on 8 and 9, but thought the one on 18 was key to grabbing the lead.

“Birdies are fantastic, pars are great out here. But that was a great momentum boosting hole,” Wie said about the 18th.

Thompson had three birdies and a bogey to card a 2-under 68 to move into second by herself. She shot a 3-under 32 on the front nine, her last nine holes of the day.

She agreed with the leader that it is important to treat par as a good score at Pinehurst No. 2.

“I think it’s more being patient because there’s not as many birdie holes on this golf course,” Thompson said. “They’re mainly all pars on this golf course. Other tournaments, there’s a good amount of birdie holes and that you walk into and say, all right, I can birdie this one. But out here you just have to play smart, place your ball in the right part of the greens and take your par sometimes and be happy with it. Definitely I walked off a few greens and just really am happy with par. Sometimes bogeys are even good.”

Amy Yang, who was grouped with Wie for the first two days, moved to even par in the tournament after a 1-under 69 Friday. Yang is tied for third with Minjee Lee and first-round leader Stacy Lewis.

Yang said she is still attempting to adjust to being patient on the course instead of trying to fire at the flag sticks.

“I think the toughest part is the greens,” Yang said. “The greens are really slopey and they look like that they are like turtlebacks. So it’s really hard to go for the pins. Like, I always have to go for the safest spot, so I can get a good putt.”

After holding a 1-shot lead, Lewis suffered through an up-and-down second round. Lewis, ranked No. 1 in the world, carded three birdies and six bogeys to fire a 3-over 73 to fall back to even for the week.

Lewis hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation during her opening round 67, but her accuracy dropped on Friday, hitting 11.

“I didn’t hit the ball very good to start,” Lewis said. “Then the putting just didn’t help. At a U.S. Open you’re going to have to make some 5- and 6-footers and that’s what I didn’t do today. I hit some bad iron shots but I didn’t leave myself in that bad of places, I just didn’t putt very good, but I played really good the last five holes. So I hung around and that’s what you’ve got to do at this tournament.”

The No. 1 ranked amateur in the world, Lee is four shots off of Wie’s pace and finished with a 1-over 71 Friday. Lee is also the low amateur in the field, four strokes better than Canada’s Brooke Henderson.

“I hit it better today, but I didn’t putt as good as yesterday,” Lee said. “So when I was trying to make up-and-downs it was a little bit more harder. But I’m happy with my 1-over. I think that the pins are playing pretty tough, although some of the tees are up today and you can drive one of the par-4s. But I think that the pins are playing pretty tough.”

Paula Creamer is in a group with Mariajo Uribe and Sakura Yokomine at 2-over par for the tournament. Na Yeon Choi is sixth by herself at 1 over.

Creamer said she was struggling to find her swing during the second round and carded a 2-over 72.

“I definitely did not have my “A” game today, that’s for sure,” Creamer said. “I couldn’t figure out my irons out there. I struggled a little bit with that and just getting a good swing thought. I missed a lot of greens, which I normally don’t do. But I scrambled really well. When I missed it, I missed it in the right parts. You can’t be too upset about that.

“Obviously I’m a little heated about missing that par save on the last hole, but that’s only going to motivate me more. I’m not taking it as a negative, I’m definitely taking it as a positive going into the weekend. Hopefully I’m not too far back going in on Saturday, but there’s just so much golf left.”

Despite finishing tied for 120th, 11-year-old Lucy Li had a large gallery following Friday afternoon. Li carded back-to-back 8-over 78s in her first U.S. Open appearance.

“I’m really happy about how I played. I’m really happy with how I bounced back from the big numbers,” Li said. “I got birdies after I got like doubles and triples, so that’s what I’m really happy about.

“I hit a lot of good shots today, hit a lot of bad shots. All in all it was a good week.”

Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.