PITTSFORD — Michelle Wie resisted the urge to get greedy and used long-hitting to her advantage Saturday in the second round of the Wegman’s LPGA Championship.
Wie, the former teen phenom of the LPGA Tour, shot a 4-under-par 68 to move into contention at even par at the halfway mark of the second major of the year in women’s golf.
At 6,534 yards, Locust Hill Country Club is the shortest course of the four majors in women’s golf by at least 200 yards. It also features long, tough rough.
“I just try not to be greedy on this golf course,” said Wie, 23. “I only hit driver twice today. And I hit a couple of more drivers yesterday. All my strokes really cost me from my driver yesterday. And on this golf course, even if you have 5-iron, 6-iron in, you just have to be in the fairway.”
Wie hit 11 of 14 fairways Saturday using a 3-wood, 2-hybrid or 4-hybrid off the tee.
The 6-foot-1 Wie, in her fifth year on the tour, always has had a length advantage over most foes. She has ranked among the top four in driving distance each of the last four years. Her average last year was 269 yards. She can hit hybrids off some tee while others need driver.
“I’ve tried a lot of different things off the tee on this golf course over the past couple of years,” Wie said. “Shooting 68 today really gives me the confidence. I’m starting to understand this golf course a little bit more every year.”
Wie’s career has been a disappointment. Her two wins came in 2009 and 2010. Last year she was 64th on the money list.
Putting has held her back. Last year she ranked 126th in putting. This year she has improved to 47th. She has adopted a cross-handed putting stroke and a severe crouch over the ball, with her upper body virtually parallel to the ground.
Wie had made only five cuts in her first 10 events this year before finishing ninth last week at the Shoprite LPGA Classic. She said she sensed some good rounds coming.
“I put in a lot of work over the offseason, and it’s been feeling that way for a very long time,” she said. “I’m just being patient, and just waiting for my opportunity to come and just enjoying myself. And I’m just working hard at every step.”
This offseason was the first in which Wie was able to focus fully on golf. She graduated from Stanford in March 2012 with a degree in communications.
South Korea’s Mi Jung Hur is the David Copperfield of the LPGA. She magically turned two 79s into 71 and 74. She’s in the hunt at 1-over despite hitting just 7 of 28 fairways – the worst driving accuracy in the field. She only hit 15 of 36 greens.
Yet she needed only 25 and 26 putts in her two rounds.
And who was the only player on the practice putting green between 4 and 5 p.m. Saturday? That’s right. Hur.
“She’s a great putter,” said caddie Mike Troublefield. “And her short game is like the best men’s players. I think a lot of players chip a bit scared. She has no fear around the green because she’s so confident of making the putt coming back.”
Hur has ranked between 31st and 59th on the money list the last four years thanks to her short game. She hasn’t ranked inside the top 95 in driving accuracy or greens in regulation in any year. But she has been in the top seven in putting three of the past four years.
At one point during her post-round practice session, Hur made 15 straight putts from 15 feet. There is nothing unorthodox about her putting style. She has a standard grip and stands upright and relaxed, eyes over the ball.
She said her favorite putting drill simply is practicing 5 to 8 footers.
“Those are the ones you have most after you chip,” she said.
Like most pros, she also practices putting inside in her hotel room.
“I work on the stroke. Straight, straight,” she said.
Among the sentimental favorites this week may be 49-year-old Brit Laura Davies, who has 20 LPGA Tour wins, four major titles and 85 wins worldwide. She shot 72 to stand at 1-over par. It’s the first time in the last eight majors she has even made the cut. Her last top 10 at a major was in 2005. Her last tour win was in 2001 at Rochester.
Davies needs a major win or two more regular tour wins to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame. The LPGA uses a point system for inclusion into the hall. A player needs 27 points, including a major title, to get in. A major is worth two points, a tour win is one point. Winning the scoring title or player of the year award is one point. Davies has 25 points. However, in a dubious ruling, the LPGA doesn’t give her two points for her first major because she wasn’t an official tour member when she won that event.
First-round leader Chella Choi of South Korea had a word or message written in ink in Korean on the back of her left hand. After shooting a second-round 73, she declined to say what it said.
“It’s a secret,” she said with a smile.
She acknowledged that the message had something to do with driving straight. “Before tee shots, like, OK, I try to focus just one spot,” she said.
It’s working. She has hit 25 of 28 fairways, second most in the field.
The victory drought looks like it will continue for former world No. 1 Yani Tseng. She shot 74 Saturday and stands 2-over.
Tseng came to Rochester last year on top of women’s golf. She won four of seven majors between 2010 and 2011 and has 15 career wins. However, she has no wins since last March and no top 10s in her last seven events. The weight of being the world No. 1, it seems, has been a burden.
“I think I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself and am looking at the result too much,” said Tseng, before the tournament. “I didn’t enjoy the golf as much as I did before I was No. 1, but now, I’ve been learning so much from last year.”
Tseng, 23, has battled tonsillitis the previous two weeks but is healthy this week.