ROGERS, Ark. » Michelle Wie got off to another fast start yesterday at the Northwest Arkansas Championship, firing a 68, leaving her two shots off the pace and in fifth place.
In her last outing, Wie led from the first round to the last, winning the Canadian Open. The Punahou graduate is tied for fifth place with four other players who are chasing tournament leader Morgan Pressel, who shot a 5-under 66.
Pressel, whose last win on tour was at the 2008 Kapalua Classic, played alongside Juli Inkster and 17-year-old Daniel Watkins from The First Tee program. A dozen players from the youth development organization are joining the pros during the first two rounds in a best-ball competition that is taking place alongside the tournament.
"We had a lot of fun out there," said Pressel. "It didn’t really come out until the last hole, when he admitted to me that he was very nervous about the spectators and didn’t want to kill anybody. I told him that Tiger hits it all over the place, too, and has a lot more spectators than we do, so not to worry about it."
Although some of Watkins’ shots went astray, he played well enough to maintain a good pace of play, and Pressel seemed to enjoy a carefree round at Pinnacle Country Club. She is one stroke ahead of Yani Tseng, Gloria Park and Na Yeon Choi. Wie is another stroke back along with Suzann Pettersen, Janice Moodie, Danielle Downey and Jee Young Lee.
This is the first time the LPGA has tried this setup, with First Tee players joining the pros during competitive rounds.
"Juli was more a coach than I was," Pressel said. "I’m sure a lot of the girls were hesitant to want to play with juniors, as it might be a distraction. But as you could see in my game today, it loosens you up."
Pressel, also the 2007 Kraft Nabisco winner, finished with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9. She hit 15 greens in regulation and missed only one fairway to move to the top of a loaded field.
Tseng, who won the Women’s British Open and the Kraft Nabisco this year, is off to a good start as she tries to get back on track. Since winning the British, she finished tied for 45th at the Safeway Classic and missed the cut at the Canadian Women’s Open.
Tseng birdied No. 18, a 515-yard par 5. Her second shot, a 3-wood from 233 yards, landed around the front of an elevated green.
"I think I killed that shot," Tseng said. "It was like 245 into wind, so I hit a great shot there."
On the same hole, the big-hitting Wie came up short of the green with her second shot and settled for par.
"I didn’t birdie any of the par 5s today and I bogeyed one of them, so I definitely need to do better," Wie said.