American Michelle Wie stamped her authority on the U.S. Women’s Open when she carded a second consecutive two-under-par 68 to vault into the clubhouse lead in Pinehurst, North Carolina, on Friday.
The former child prodigy birdied her final two holes, rolling in a curling 15-footer at the last with her stooped cross-handed putting style to post a four-under 136 halfway total at Pinehurst No. 2.
She was four strokes better than anyone else in the morning half of the field, although first round leader Stacy Lewis had a late tee time after an opening three-under 67.
“Yesterday I was thinking if I just did this again, that would be nice,” Wie told reporters.
“It's a grind out there. (I’m) really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made.”
Wie, 24, has been playing in the Women’s Open since 2003, so she understands that the halfway lead does guarantee anything.
“Being in contention, having the clubhouse lead for now, I'm just really excited for the weekend,” she continued.
“I think the U.S. Open as an American is one of the most important tournaments, but at the same time Sunday is a very, very long time, far away.”
Wie has been in the public eye for more than a decade. In 2004, she came within one stroke of making the cut against the men on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Her career stalled for a few years, but this season she is second behind Lewis on the LPGA money list thanks to a victory and a bunch of top finishes.
South Korean Amy Yang (69) and Australian amateur Minjee Lee (71) were best of the other early starters at even-par 140.
“It is my first (U.S. Open) and I'm in contention, so I can't ask for anything more,” said 18-year-old Lee, the reigning Australian Amateur champion.
She said the course reminded her of the famous Sandbelt courses in Melbourne in her home country, though the turtle-back Pinehurst greens were more severe.
The Women’s Open is being played on the same course where German Martin Kaymer last week won the men’s U.S. Open.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, Editing by Gene Cherry)