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Happy memories for student Wie on return to Mission Hills

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - American Michelle Wie had a spring in her step on Tuesday after returning to one of her happiest hunting grounds for this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The Hawaiian teenager, with her first year at Stanford University now behind her, has contended strongly in her four previous appearances in the opening women’s major of the season and has always relished playing at Mission Hills Country Club.

“I have a lot of good memories so I’m really thankful about that,” Wie, 19, told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s just everything about this golf course, all the good shots that I’ve had.

“The 18th hole is really unusual,” she added, referring to the island green framed on one side by a large grandstand where the fans can almost touch the players as they file past.

“Walking down the 18th hole, walking to the green, that long walk where people are clapping for you, it’s a really good feeling. It’s a great feeling.”

Wie, the game’s most trumpeted teenager since Tiger Woods, tied for ninth in her first Kraft Nabisco in 2003, when at 13 she became the youngest player to make the cut at an LPGA event.

She finished fourth the following year, joint 14th in 2005 and tied for third in 2006 before a lingering wrist injury prevented her from competing in 2007 and last year.

NO REGRETS

Although Wie sparked criticism from many of her peers for her sporadic attempts to make the cut on the men’s PGA Tour while failing to triumph on the women’s circuit, she has no regrets.

“I don’t think I would change anything,” she said. “Things happen for a reason. I had a lot of fun times.

“I wish I didn’t hurt my wrist, that’s the one big thing. But that already happened and I don’t like looking into the past. Now all I want to do is focus on the present, try my hardest and look into the future.”

Wie won back the respect of her LPGA rivals by earning her Tour card in December with a tie for seventh place at qualifying school.

She then came desperately close to winning her first title at the season-opening SBS Open in Hawaii before being overhauled by compatriot Angela Stanford over the back nine.

“I want to win but I can’t really control that,” Wie said. “All I can control is how I play and how hard I try. I guess I just take a different outlook on my life now.

“I’ve stopped worrying about stuff that I can’t handle. I’m just going to try my hardest. If it works out, then great; if it doesn’t, then I know I’ve tried my hardest.

“It’s a lot less stress on me,” added Wie, who this week will bidding for her first victory since claiming the 2003 U.S. women’s amateur public links title.

Editing by John O’Brien. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com

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