RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » The year’s first major nearly got away from Hawaii’s Michelle Wie on Thursday. It nearly got away again yesterday on her first swing.
But today, going into the third round of the 40th annual Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wie is tied for eighth. The Punahou graduate is six shots behind leader Stacy Lewis, who is at 9-under-par 135 after a second-round 69.
After a harrowing first hole yesterday at Mission Hills Country Club, Wie shot a 5-under-par 67 that looked just like Thursday’s 74, if you subtract seven putts. The Stanford senior hit just seven fairways and 12 greens in regulation, but chipped in once and drained two birdie putts outside 20 feet
As bounce-back rounds go, it was impressive, particularly since she started her day with a huge scare. Wie yanked her tee shot and watched in dread, then saw the ball fly 25 feet in the air dead right and settle in the center of the fairway.
Wie’s face gave way to a shocked grin and then panic as the realization hit that it might have bounced off a spectator. Her fear was confirmed when she walked to her ball and found out her drive had bounced and hit a young girl in the head before kicking into the fairway.
The girl already was in her father’s arms with an ice pack on her head when Wie put her arm around her and told her how sorry she was. The paramedics came to check her out while her father insisted she was OK. She was back walking the course later in the day.
"I never felt so horrible about a shot ever," Wie said. "I felt so horrible about hitting that poor little girl. But you know, I was kind of lucky and I just felt really bad. Hopefully she’s fine."
Asked if it had happened before, Wie rolled her eyes.
"Yeah," she said. "I mean, considering how many times I hit it off line, yeah, I’ve hit a couple."
She continued to hit it off line the rest of the day, but her putter put her in position for her charge. She needed just 12 putts on the front nine — five fewer than on Thursday.
Wie missed a 10-footer for birdie on that first hole, but made a 9-footer on the next. She blasted a 309-yard drive at No. 3 and followed up with a 20-footer for birdie.
A 25-footer on the par-3 fifth put her under par for the tournament, and when she chipped in from 20 feet on the seventh she was suddenly in the top 10.
That would also be the first of six straight missed fairways. Wie had realistic chances at birdie on each of those until she got to the 13th and couldn’t hack the ball out of the rough and up to the green.
That would be her only bogey and she ended her day by hitting to 4 feet on the 15th and 18th and dropping both birdie putts.
"I think I hung in there, grinded it good yesterday," she said. "I still had good feelings about my round, so I think today I kind of used those feelings and tried to get off to a good start."
The birdie putt on the second hole got her rolling, and she didn’t let it get away on the back nine, for the second straight day. Wie, No. 9 in the Rolex World Ranking, has proved stubborn that way.
In the first two days she has hit it all over the place at one of her favorite courses and still hung on, in 100-degree heat that baked the course a second straight day. It could have been worse. This triple-digit day came with just 6 percent humidity, not 60-something like where she grew up.
It also came with an inebriated fan, who loudly urged her on over the back nine.
"I don’t think drinking in over 100-degree weather is a smart idea," Wie said. "But he was quite entertaining. He wasn’t obnoxious at all. I thought it was really funny. Started speaking Spanish for a while."
Wie, 21, is making her seventh start at Kraft. She finished in the top 15 four times as a teenager, playing in the final group on the final day the first time. Since becoming an LPGA member in 2009, she has come up 67th and 27th.
"I have a lot of good memories here," she said. "Playing in the final round with Annika (Sorenstam) when I was like 13 was a pretty amazing experience. I’ve been here a long time and it’s pretty cool. I’ve kind of grown up here."