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Tied at the top

By New York Times

LAST UPDATED: 06:43 a.m. HST, Jun 22, 2014

PINEHURST, N.C. » People flocked to Lucy Li like kids to the neighborhood ice cream truck during the first two rounds of the U.S. Women's Open. Michelle Wie, the 36-hole leader, was fine with that.

The attention paid Li, the 11-year-old prodigy, played perfectly into Wie's strategy to concentrate on the task at hand. It can be hard for Wie, a one-time wunderkind, to focus on the present when her past precedes her into any interview.

A fixture on the USGA scene since qualifying for the Women's Amateur at age 10, the 24-year-old Wie tends to get asked more about what she has done, or failed to do, than where her game is headed.

Hailed as the LPGA's answer to Tiger Woods since playing in the final group on the final day of a major as a giggly, gangly 13-year-old, a wiser, more worldly Wie is 18 holes from the major title that has eluded her in 37 starts.

Three strokes ahead of Lexi Thompson at Saturday's start, Wie carded a 2-over-par 72 at Pinehurst No. 2 for a share of the lead, at 2-under 208, with South Korea's Amy Yang, who posted a 68. In 2005 and 2006, Wie also went into the final round as the co-leader. She finished tied for 23rd in 2005 and tied for third the next year.

"When I was 15 and 16, I think kind of the troubles that I came into when I was younger is that I tried to plan my life," Wie said. "And a lot of times, things don't happen the way they should, or the way they should in my mind. So I'm just kind of going out there living it day by day."

Third-round leaderboard

6,649-yard, par-70 Pinehurst No. 2

Amy Yang 71-69-68 208
Michelle Wie 68-68-72 208
Juli Inkster 71-75-66 212
Stephanie Meadow 71-72-69 212
Na Yeon Choi 71-70-71 212
a-Minjee Lee 69-71-72 212

After Li missed the cut with consecutive rounds of 78, the spotlight moved from the youngest player in the field to the oldest, 53-year-old Juli Inkster. With a 4-under 66, the lowest round of the week, Inkster vaulted into a tie for third at 2-over 212.

"I played very smart and I played good," said Inkster, a two-time champion who last broke 70 in the event in 2003.

Inkster is making her 35th start in this tournament. She is adamant that it will be her last, even if she earns an exemption into next year's event.

"I'm good with it," she said. "I'm totally fine."

Inkster, who has competed against phenoms ranging from Nancy Lopez to Lydia Ko, was happy to see Wie playing so well. In her past seven starts, Wie has six top-10 finishes, including a victory in her native Hawaii and a second in the year's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

"I think it's great for our game," Inkster said. "Because again, the media, our fan base, they know Michelle Wie, and when she's in contention, our ratings go up."

Those following Wie on Saturday included Li, who observed from inside the dream final pairing of Wie and Thompson. They played together in the final group for the final round at the Kraft Nabisco, which Thompson won.

Wie versus Thompson is like Rory McIlroy against Rickie Fowler, a made-for-TV show that hasn't materialized this year on the PGA Tour. Thompson, who started the day three strokes back, birdied two of the first five holes to pull within a stroke of Wie, who opened with a bogey.

But the drama fizzled when Thompson made double bogeys at Nos. 8 and 9. She posted a 74 to fall into a five-way tie for seventh at 4 over.

Thompson, 19, was one of eight teenagers to make the cut. Among the others was Minjee Lee, an 18-year-old amateur from Australia, who was tied with Inkster after a third-round 72.

Lee met Inkster on Tuesday night at the past champions dinner, which Lee attended as the guest of Karrie Webb. For Lee and others, it was a tossup as to which of Inkster's numbers was more mind-boggling, 53 or 66.

"It's pretty amazing to have 66 around here," said Lee, who required no introduction to Wie. Lee said she first heard of Wie roughly eight years ago, after Lee took up the sport.

"She was like really, really good, and she was on Tour and all that," Lee said. "And she played with the guys, and that's when I first heard about her."

To this point, the book on Wie is she contended in majors as a teenager, played a handful of events on the PGA Tour and attended Stanford, where she earned a degree in communications. On Sunday, she has a chance to close the book on her past for good.

"I can't look forward," Wie said. "I'm going to focus on every single shot."

She added, "I'm going to have fun tomorrow and see what happens."

Karen Crouse, New York Times

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HonoluluHawaii wrote:
This would be the greatest feather in her cap of her young career. I was within 15 feet of Michelle as she played in last year's Ko Olina LPGA tour stop. I did not say hello though, as I think it was not allowed anyway. She did not look as intimidating as one might have thought. u know, Michelle seemed to be a well grounded person. Go Michelle, make Hawaii proud.
on June 22,2014 | 02:20AM
tigerwarrior wrote:
Agreed. If she wins this no one can accuse her of being the best LPGA golfer to have never won a major.
on June 22,2014 | 05:14AM
danji wrote:
Going to Punahou and Stabford(degree in communication) she went into the wrong field. U know. U know u know is her favorite phrase but has gotten a little better. But overall when asked about Ali first thing came out of her mouth was she's s cute and I. Don't think I was that cute. She was asked about li's present at the Open and about golf. But she graduated from Punahou and Stanford. Wie is still has not grow on up. Hope she doesn't well but she gotta grow up. Most of the downs in her career is due to her father's influence in her attitude due and mind sent. I hope if she wins she can somehow give some credit to all the tape on her legs and if she doesn't win not blame her ailment Also to win she must realize that luck is involved(even Tiger admitted that)
on June 22,2014 | 05:48AM
makaidog wrote:
Bad headline on Inkster, Wie jump into third-place tie. Wie's in a first-place tie, as the story says.
on June 22,2014 | 08:55AM
808noelani wrote:
Michelle Wie should win today. Now that her putting has greatly improved, I wouldn't be surprised to see her move up to No. 1 by next year if not earlier. IMO putting, which is 50% and the most important part of your game, is what has kept her from being a top golfer. Tee to green, the first 50% of your game, hasn't really been a problem for her as she can hit the ball farther than the other girls, has shots that a lot of the other girls can't hit, and has a terrific short game.
on June 22,2014 | 10:16AM
9thislandcuz wrote:
WIE WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on June 22,2014 | 12:02PM
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