Wie regains form to sparkle at Blackwolf Run
(Reuters) - Michelle Wie buried memories of a dismal start to this season as she dazzled fans with a sensational six-under-par 66 in Friday's second round of the U.S. Women's Open in Kohler, Wisconsin.
The 22-year-old American, who has yet to live up to the lofty expectations heaped upon her when she turned professional in 2005, mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey to surge into a share of second place.
Having missed six cuts in 10 starts on the 2012 LPGA Tour for relatively paltry earnings of $19,013, Wie shot the best score of the week at Blackwolf Run to end another hot day a stroke behind pacesetting Norwegian Suzann Pettersen.
"Obviously it went well today," a smiling Wie told reporters after totaling only 23 putts. "It was a lot of fun. I just went out there and kind of tried to be patient. When putts started dropping in, it makes for a low round."
Asked what had made the difference from her opening 74 in the year's third major, Wie replied: "It's pretty similar actually. Just a couple more shots got in there closer.
"I had a couple more birdie putts today than I did yesterday, and yesterday I felt like I was lagging on my putts because I was outside 30 feet most of the day. Being closer to the hole definitely helps."
Wie, a double champion on the LPGA Tour who has yet win a major title, surprised even herself with her six-under score on a challenging layout.
"I thought even par for today would be really good," she grinned. "But saying that, I'll take today.
"Still, it's only halfway done. I got a long way in front of me. I'm really glad I shot the score I did today and that I'm back in contention. I'm really looking forward to this weekend."
MOUNTAIN OF EXPECTATIONS
Blessed with abundant talent, Korean-American Wie turned professional at the age of 15 under a mountain of expectation after signing endorsement deals believed to be worth $10 million a year.
She joined the paid ranks in 2005 as golf's richest female and one of the highest paid athletes in women's sport. Swede Annika Sorenstam, the world number one at the time, earned around $6 million a year in endorsements.
Surprisingly, it took another four years before Wie finally visited the winner's circle, a trying period as she battled injuries, putting woes and criticism from many of her peers for her sporadic attempts to make the cut on the men's PGA Tour.
Golf's most trumpeted teenager since Tiger Woods, she came under intense media scrutiny as she strived to land a first tournament victory since the 2003 U.S. women's amateur public links title aged 13.
Asked if she felt a lot her fans had given up on her during that time, Wie replied: "I don't know if anyone gave up on me or not. I'm sure some did and some didn't.
"But I never gave up on myself, and today was a good reminder to myself that I can do it and I still have it."
Wie, who won her first LPGA Tour title at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, was delighted to turn the corner after a string of poor results this season.
"It's nice to know that I made the cut for sure, so that feels good," she said. "But it's just like it was a good confidence booster. I have two long days ahead of me."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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